Let’s embrace our unique offer to general practice

Ruth ten Hove, CSP's head of research and development, reflects on the society's recent conference and changes ahead for the profession

by Ruth ten Hove


Joyce Williams, left, speaking at Physio UK with CSP chief executive Karen Middleton

I have been reflecting on the last session at this year's CSP Physiotherapy UK conference - a brilliant discussion that focused on our profession's autonomy

Joyce Williams, a key architect of modern physiotherapy and now in her mid-80s, described passionately how granting the profession autonomy in 1977 had transformed overnight the way physiotherapists practised.

We are on the brink of a similarly momentous change, as CSP officers meet with NHS England (NHSE) to develop the commissioning guidance for first contact physiotherapists in general practice, with a view to a full-scale roll out in 2018/19.

This work would not have been possible without the overt support of many CSP members, the British Medical Association and the Royal College of General Practitioners, who recognise the key benefits that physiotherapists can deliver to primary care.

Unique opportunity

The ageing population, the shortage of GPs and economic austerity all present us with a unique opportunity to transform musculoskeletal services, to position physiotherapy expertise at the front end of the musculoskeletal pathway. This will present a new way of working for many advanced practice physiotherapists, with a focus on diagnosis, assessment, self-management and signposting, rather than core treatment. But evidence demonstrates that physiotherapists provide excellent patient experience in these new roles.

Rather than shy away from using our unique brand of physiotherapy, let's absolutely own it

I have had some feedback from physios that this new way of working is not physiotherapy. While I agree it is not core physiotherapy treatment, I believe it is absolutely part of the whole physiotherapy offer. The skills, knowledge and experience that the physiotherapy profession brings to these new and emerging roles is predicated on your development as a physiotherapist.

No other profession can make this particular offer to general practice. So rather than shy away from using our unique brand of physiotherapy, let's absolutely own it, be rightly proud of it and promote it.

Better patient experience

As a profession we can step up confidently into these advanced practice roles, taking full accountability that we are able to demonstrate the impact of a better patient experience. Over the next few years, the landscape of healthcare will change, not least in primary care.

With much more choice of first contact services, physiotherapists will be very much part of that transformed primary care team - which will present further opportunities for members to develop new skills and progress their careers by moving into these roles.

If you are in a new first contact role in general practice, or considering it, why not join our network meeting in London on 22 January? (Find out more from researchadmin@csp.org.uk.)

Ruth ten Hove is head of research and development at the CSP.

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