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Research demonstrates value of direct access to physiotherapy

5 July 2005 - 9:10am

Allowing patients direct access to physiotherapists without a referral from their family doctor could save the average five-doctor GP practice a month's consulting time each year.

Research demonstrates value of direct access to physiotherapy 

Allowing patients direct access to physiotherapists without a referral from their family doctor could save the average five-doctor GP practice a month's consulting time each year (1) according to new research by chartered physiotherapist Lesley Holdsworth. The results of a12-month self-referral project at Westgate Health Centre in Dundee, where patients could see a physiotherapist as a first point of contact, also show high levels of patient satisfaction.

The research project compared self-referrals with GP referrals to physiotherapy in a health centre. The results showed that people who self-referred were more likely to attend their physiotherapy appointments, be more compliant with treatment and required fewer physiotherapy sessions than GP referrals. They also reported greater levels of satisfaction with their treatment and were more interested in gaining skills that would allow them to manage the problems themselves. The self-referral group had a distinct profile: proportionally more younger men, suffering from less severe low back pain or lower limb conditions than those referred by a GP. All self-referrals were appropriate and patients, physiotherapists and GPs valued the service.

The findings from the research project are being presented, today, at Europe's biggest physiotherapy conference, the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy's Annual Congress in Birmingham.

Commenting on the implications of her research, chartered physiotherapist Lesley Holdsworth said:

"Despite the fact that self-referral is permissible by law in the NHS and has been for 15 years, the present system does not encourage physiotherapists to work in this way. However, this study provides evidence that this option is clinically and cost effective. It also demonstrates the significant contribution physiotherapists can make to primary healthcare if their expertise is acknowledged in this way. The next step must be to extend self-referral to other sites and fully evaluate the impact on healthcare provision. We are currently seeking funding from the Scottish Executive to develop a national project and we would like to hear from other groups in Scotland interested in taking part in this work."
(1) The practice population was 8,000 with an average of 340 physiotherapy referrals in a year. Only a quarter of patients self referred but If all took this route, it would equate to a saving of 88 hours of GP consultation time a year.

Ends

Media only: For further information please contact the press office on 020 7306 6616/28.

The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy is the professional, educational and trade union body for the country's 38,000 chartered physiotherapists, physiotherapy students and assistants. Physiotherapy is Britain's fourth largest health profession after medicine, nursing and midwifery 

 

 

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