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Commission says economic benefits of physiotherapy are underestimated

28 July 2015 - 11:57am

A major report on the future of primary care has acknowledged the potential role of physiotherapists in primary care settings.

Primary Care Workforce Commission calls for evaluation of self-referral to physio

Primary Care Workforce Commission: if more physios prescribed it would reduce the need for GP appointments

The Primary Care Workforce Commission acknowledges that self referral to physios can be cheaper than first seeing a GP.

But its report also wants to see more research to measure the overall impact of self referral on general practice workload.

It also suggests that the economic benefits of physiotherapy could be even greater if the time patients take off work is included in the equation. Increases in work productivity could offset possible increases in NHS costs, it says.

The commission was set up by Health Education England to identify innovative models of primary care that could meet the future needs of patients and the NHS.

The models considered included face-to-face or phone triage of musculoskeletal problems, self-referral to physiotherapy, and physiotherapy as part of a falls service.

Welcoming the report, CSP’s chief executive Karen Middleton said: 'This important report highlights the crucial role physiotherapists will play in delivering future primary care.

'The report endorses self-referral to physiotherapy as part of a system that is based around the needs of patients and we urge commissioners to adopt it now in the nearly 70 per cent of areas where it doesn't already exist.

'It also highlights the potential benefits that could be unleashed through more physiotherapists acting as independent prescribers and also working in practices alongside GPs as a first point of contact.’

Further findings in the document include

  • Physiotherapists’ ability to work independently in primary care would be enhanced if more of them could prescribe, as this would reduce the need for parallel GP appointments.
  • There should be a single point of access to 24-hour domiciliary care services. It says there are examples where professionals, such as physios and social workers, have training from each other’s disciplines to be able to carry out urgent assessments.

It calls for an ‘up-skilling’ so that primary care teams have more capacity and scope, including physiotherapists for musculoskeletal problems.

Health Education England, which works to ensure the NHS workforce has the right numbers and skills, will consider the report and respond in the autumn.

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