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Gather more data on AHPs’ role, say Nuffield Trust and Health Foundation

30 September 2014 - 9:38am

Physiotherapists are an important part of the NHS workforce, but there is a lack of data about the contribution they make to patient care at a national level.

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That is the conclusion of a report from two healthcare charities, the Nuffield Trust and the Health Foundation. The report, titled Focus on: allied health professionals: can we measure quality of care?, examines the role of allied health professions (AHPs) in England.

In 2013 AHPs made up about six per cent of the NHS workforce in England and accounted for £2 billion of the NHS salary bill, the analysis found. Between 2010 and 2013 the number of physiotherapists in England increased by 60 per cent to nearly 49,000.

But the report says physiotherapists, and other AHPs, are ‘rarely the subject of major policy debates and there is a concern that their contribution to care is often hidden, overlooked or potentially undervalued’.

It argues that a better understanding of the levels and quality of care provided by physiotherapists will be increasingly important in a financially constrained NHS.

The report recommends a number of areas where data collection would improve understanding about the physiotherapy workforce. They include

  • linking basic administrative information with care records
  • recording a range of physiotherapy services beyond basic hospital care
  • using data to create benchmarking and ensuring it translates into improved practice

Physiotherapists should be given training and technology to collect ‘meaningful and consistent data’, the document says.

Steve Tolan, head of practice and development at the CSP, said: ‘This important report demonstrates the challenge of understanding the quality of AHP services.

‘There is a need for greater visibility of physiotherapy activity in national data and members should advocate this locally, as the CSP does nationally.’

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