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Research highlights first point of contact physio in primary care

11 October 2017 - 4:06pm

Research by three physiotherapists has identified key factors that can affect the success of physiotherapy in primary care.

Fiona Moffatt

The physio researchers (left to right): PhD student Rob Goodwin, and assistant professors Fiona Moffatt and Paul Hendrick

These include a need to manage patient expectations, take account of the crucial role administrative staff play in re-distributing work and counter concerns that physiotherapists won’t recognise ‘red flags’.

The University of Nottingham’s assistant professors Fiona Moffatt and Paul Hendrick and PhD student Rob Goodwin had their paper published in Primary Health Care Research and Development in September.

Their work explores the challenges of implementing physiotherapy as a first point of contact for patients with musculoskeletal (MSK) complaints in primary care.

Professor Moffatt told Frontline: ‘We were aware that the research evidence suggests that it is a valuable approach, but little has been said empirically about its implementation.

‘So we undertook a qualitative evaluation of two UK city centre practices which were taking part in a pilot self-referral scheme, offering physiotherapy as a first point of contact.

‘The paper describes our findings and proposes a number of key lessons, which may prove significant in predicting the success of similar schemes.’

Patient perceptions

One of the possible barriers the researchers identified was patients' perceptions of primary care as a hierarchical structure, with the GP as the 'legitimate choice' for the diagnosis and management of an MSK complaint.

Professor Moffatt said the participants in the study acknowledged the positive effects of physiotherapy in primary care on patient experience and wellbeing.

‘All the GP participants acknowledged that any initial concerns regarding the physiotherapists' ability to work autonomously and identify 'red flags' were unfounded,’ she said.

‘The practice staff identified that physiotherapy as a first point of contact service offered the potential for upskilling the primary care team.’

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