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Physios are key to prevention, reablement and holistic care, says Paul Burstow MP

22 October 2014 - 4:25pm

Physiotherapists have a significant but under-recognised role in enabling the health service to meet the challenges of the 21st century, a conference on the future of the NHS heard.

Paul Burstow MP. Photo: Adi Wickramaratne/Department of Health

Paul Burstow: 'There needs to be more self-referral schemes and for physios to be accessed more easily.' Photo: Department of Health

Paul Burstow chairs the Liberal Democrat health backbench committee and is a former care services minister. He told the Westminster Health Forum event on 21 October: ‘I think there needs to be more self-referral schemes and for physios to be accessed more easily.

‘We have workforce pressures on GPs and on other parts of the system. The areas where in fact we don’t have workforce pressures, or nowhere near as much, are in terms of physios, occupational therapists and pharmacists.

‘All three of those have a contribution to make which is under-recognised in primary care, certainly in terms of prevention, and we need to deal with that.’

The conference was chaired by Baroness Shirley Williams. She opened the event by saying: ‘Increasingly the NHS will be about moving away from curing illness, to being about preventing illness, and that is something we have a long way to go on.’

Frontline asked speakers about the role of physiotherapy in tackling pressures on health and care systems.

David Pearson, president of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, said: ‘There is strong evidence that reablement works in social care, in terms of people coming out of hospital or recovering from illness. And there is emerging strong evidence that physiotherapy makes a huge difference.’

Paul Edmondson-Jones, former secretary of the Association of Directors of Public Health, spoke about the importance of initiatives such as Making Every Contact Count and of physios taking a holistic approach during consultations.

He told Frontline: ‘Brief interventions work. The evidence is that one in nine people will change the way they behave. So, it’s taking that opportunity – whatever health professional you are – to take a holistic view and use that brief intervention, that moment, to change lifestyles.’

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