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Give patients the power to see physios without a GP referral, says CSP

22 April 2015 - 8:24am

Only one in three clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) in England allows patients to refer themselves for physiotherapy, a CSP investigation has found.

Two CCGs in three do not allow self-referral to physiotherapy [nid:885672]

See the self-referral map, evidence and savings on the pages below

The figure was revealed in replies to freedom of information requests sent by the CSP to all 211 CCGs in England.

Patients in 22 per cent of CCGs have comprehensive self-referral to physiotherapy, the CSP found. Meanwhile, nine per cent of CCGs offer only limited self-referral, restricted to particular conditions or primary care practices.

A map illustrating the self-referral findings highlights the patchy nature of provision. For example, while most patients in Suffolk and Surrey can self-refer for physiotherapy, this is not available at all in Cornwall and Shropshire.

Across greater London only patients in the boroughs of Camden, Islington and Westminster have full access to self-referral.

Ruth ten Hove, the CSP’s head of practice and development, said: ‘At the moment Choose and Book is a barrier to self-referral because patients need to see their GP before they are referred to physiotherapy.

‘I am hopeful that when Choose and Book moves to the new NHS e-referral system, CCGs will take advantage of the locally developed self-referral function.’

Primary care capacity

According to the CSP, more than 100 million GP appointments a year could be freed up in England if physiotherapists were the first point of contact for patients suffering back pain and other musculoskeletal problems.

This would create much-needed capacity in primary care and ensure patients get direct access to the support they need.

Approximately 30 per cent of GP consultations are for musculoskeletal conditions. The CSP is calling for patients to be able to choose physiotherapists as their first point of contact, in primary practices or in outpatient clinics.

‘We at the CSP see the self-referral model as hugely beneficial,’ said Ms ten Hove. ‘This is because it means people actively engage in their treatment. They turn up for their appointments and they want more understanding about strategies for self-management and prevention.’

The statistics show how England appears to have fallen behind other parts of the UK which have already advanced self-referral to physiotherapy.

Patient self-referral is available across the whole of Scotland and two thirds of Wales. Only Northern Ireland is less advanced, where a long-delayed pilot is due to start next month.

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