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Physiotherapy self-referral pilot to launch in Northern Ireland

17 January 2014 - 4:56pm

The first physiotherapy musculoskeletal (MSK) self-referral pilot in Northern Ireland has been announced, marking a long-awaited step towards it being rolled out across the country.


The CSP has been campaigning for physiotherapy self-referral since 2009

The Implementation of the Self-referral Physiotherapy project is being led by the Public Health Agency (PHA) with support from the Transforming Your Care directorate at the Health and Social Care (HSC) Board. Physiotherapy representatives from all Northern Ireland's health and social care trusts are involved in both the project board and project team, the PHA confirmed.

On 9 January the South Eastern HSC Trust was selected as the early implementer site. The project team, the South Eastern HSC Trust allied health profession lead and physiotherapy lead will meet over the coming weeks to discuss the detail of the pilot, which starts on 1 April, including where it will be based and its duration, said a PHA spokeswoman.

‘We very much welcome this opportunity and look forward to being the early implementer site,’ Bridie McKeating, lead physiotherapist at South Eastern HSC Trust, told Frontline.

MSK pilot

‘We are in the process of selecting one MSK service locality in the region out of four and will base our decision on CSP recommendations from the other UK pilots. We will also be working closely with colleagues from other trusts and GPs in monitoring the pilot. At the end of the day we want self-referral to be implemented across the region,’ she said.

The CSP has been campaigning for physiotherapy self-referral in the country since 2009. CSP policy officer for Northern Ireland Tom Sullivan said he was ‘delighted’ by the development.

‘Northern Ireland was the only part of the UK that hadn’t yet taken up self-referral. This is something that we have consistently raised with all the political parties in the assembly but progress had been slow because there were long periods without proper AHP representation at a strategic level. However, this has improved over recent times and there appears to be more momentum for inclusion.’

Mr Sullivan added that the Transforming Your Care agenda is driving the need for more innovative services. ‘This development is good news for patients. It will help to tackle some of the existing problems with waiting times, provide more effective services for patients and help alleviate some of the pressures on GPs.’

‘It brings us into line with other parts of the UK where self-referral is already producing good results. There is an expectation to roll out the scheme regionally in 2015,’ he added.

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