Editor's comment: new year, new chances

First contact physios are making their presence felt in primary care

A new analysis by NHS Digital reveals that general practices in England provided a record 307 million appointments last year.

It delves beyond the headline figures to highlight the changing make-up of primary care staff.

The new figures are based on data taken from practice booking systems and cover more than 90% of practices. While NHS Digital stress that the system of data collection was experimental and should be treated with care, it showed there were 307.4 million appointments at practices between November 2017 and October 2018 – a rise from 299.3 million in 2007 and 221.8 million in 2005. 

Just over half between January and October of this year were with GPs, compared to 62% in 2007 and 76% in 2005. Some 45% of appointments were with ‘other practice staff’ such as nurses, compared to 4% in 2007 and 2% in 2005. 

The figures demonstrate that major changes are afoot on in the general practice workforce, offering clear opportunities for physiotherapy to shine by taking on a bigger share of the primary care workload. First contact physiotherapists are already making their presence felt in surgeries across the UK and implementation of these roles is speeding up. In Northern Ireland for example three big pilots starting in 2019 will make it possible for over 20% of patients with a musculoskeletal problem to see an FCP instead of their GP. 

This could be the year that primary care physiotherapy really comes into its own.    

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