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Key strategy pushes self referral

The CSP has welcomed the emphasis given to physiotherapy self-referral in a major government strategy for the NHS.

The strategy document, setting out a vision for primary and community care, calls for the delivery of faster and simpler access to community-based services including self referral.

Following on from Lord Darzi’s final report on the future of the NHS in England, the document says pilots for physiotherapy self-referral showed ‘high levels of patient satisfaction and a positive impact in helping people stay at work’.

People who self-refer to physiotherapy take fewer days off work and are half as likely to be off work for more than one month compared with people referred through the conventional GP route.

Self-referral is cost and clinically effective, is based on best available evidence and is highly acceptable to patients, physiotherapists and GPs. The full findings from the England pilots on self-referral will be published later this year.

CSP chief executive Phil Gray said: ‘The Society is pleased to see the green light, which the strategy gives to physio self-referral. It gives an endorsement to commissioners to pick up self-referral as a way of improving access to treatment and follows the pioneering work of self-referral schemes in Scotland and many parts of England.’

Ruth ten Hove, the CSP professional adviser who worked on the pilots project, believes self-referral offers significant development opportunities for physios.

‘To be the first contact and potentially the only healthcare professional working with the patient is a priviledge. This enhanced role has the potential to be a major driver for moving the profession forwards over the next 10 years,’ she said.

GPs have also endorsed self-referral. Speaking at the launch of the community and primary care blueprint, David Colin-Thomé, national director for primary care, said where ‘open access’ to physiotherapy services had been offered it had produced ‘spectacular’ results. ‘We expect an expansion of this but we are not setting any targets,’ he added.

James Kingsland, a GP on the advisory board who also chairs the National Association of Primary Care, said he expected physiotherapy self-referral to be taken up widely because successful practices would encourage others to follow suit.

 

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