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What is the Escalated Care Low Back Pain service?

The Escalated Care service is a fully-funded ACC low back pain service, using a multi-disciplinary team of clinicians. Currently with Active+, this is only for clients that live in the Waikato DHB catchment area. The aim of the service is to improve access to surgical and rehabilitation services across the greater Waikato region for clients with low back pain who have not resolved with primary care input, and who require ‘escalated care’ such as specialist opinions, and a multi-disciplinary assessment of services they may require to help them got back to normal life. 

The program also aims to improve access to these services for populations who have low utilisation rates, particularly Maori, and Pacifica and rural populations.

Who is this for?

For people with accident-related low back pain of at least 3 weeks, 18+ years, living within the Waikato DHB region, who have not settled with primary care input.

What are the benefits of this program?

  • Best-fit evidence-based care
  • Seamless care under one integrated team (including surgery)
  • Vocational support from the outset Client-centric service
  • Timely support to address injury-related, cultural, psychological and social needs, to allow for best possible client-focussed outcomes.

How are clients screened for eligibility?

Initial screening will be done based on criteria and the validated STarT Back Tool ( to ascertain appropriateness for this pathway. If a client does not meet the criteria, referral to primary care or an equivalent DHB-based program will be made, along with evidence-based recommendations for low back pain management.

What does the assessment involve?

Once eligibility criteria is established, the service begins with an allied health-led assessment encompassing validated subjective and objective screening tools including red flag screening. This leads into an interdisciplinary team review and decision-making process (including spinal specialists) for the client to follow either a surgical or non-surgical pathway to return to independence.

Who is involved in the program itself?

Input is individualised to client needs and findings on initial and ongoing assessment, and can include input from specialists/surgeons, GPs, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, vocational support, psychologists, pharmacists, traditional Māori health providrs, counsellors, social workers, dieticians and cultural and community support workers/advisors.

The program length will vary and be dependent on outcomes.

Who can refer to this program?

Referrals can come from primary care, specialists and surgeons, and Maori and Pacifica healthcare organisations. Referrals are accepted through our e-portal or email. Additionally, members of the public can contact us on 0800 GOGETACTIVE to make enquiries about their eligibility. 

How can I find out more details?

Please contact and we will be happy to answer your queries and provide further information. Active+ has a number of sites within the Waikato DHB catchment area for ease of access to this program for all clients.