First contact physios get green light in Scotland

A new role for physios in GP surgeries will open up opportunities UK-wide says Kenryck Lloyd-Jones.

CSP staff in Scotland have been working with members and with colleagues across the UK to make the case for integrating first contact physiotherapists within the general practice team. 
We have argued that, for patients on the MSK pathway, it improves quality of care, delivers savings to the NHS and reduces demand on stretched GPs. 
The Scottish government has now told local service planners and budget holders (integrated joint boards) that they should consider including these roles in their plans to improve primary care services. 
As well as being incredibly proud of what we have achieved in Scotland, I know that similar strides are being made in all four countries with important announcements are anticipated very soon in England and Northern Ireland. 
There are three challenges to this move that have come up from our profession in Scotland.

Why is it just MSK? 

Some members have rightly raised the point that the offer of physiotherapy in primary care goes beyond MSK. But making progress on the MSK front is great news for the whole of the profession. It opens up other opportunities – for example in frailty, respiratory and community rehab. 
But to turn these opportunities into reality we all need to make sure that MSK first contact physiotherapy roles in primary care are a major success and that we broadcast this. 

Do we have the workforce to deliver? 

We will need to expand the workforce to be able to fully deliver physiotherapy services as part of the widened GP team. The Scottish government has committed to working with the profession to address difficulties in recruitment.
The CSP is already working with Scottish universities and stakeholders on this, and we anticipate an expansion of the number of graduates. 
But we can’t wait for these to be in place to seize the opportunities presented now.

Is this really new? 

Much of this isn’t new. It is a form of self-referral, a well-established model of access in Scotland. We have already developed advanced practice physiotherapist roles to provide MSK triage in GP surgeries. 
What is new is that these advanced practice triage roles will be integrated with general practice. 
We want to know that changes truly are sustainable and exactly how the workforce ambitions will be realised. This will be a CSP priority for at least the next 18 months.  
We have set up a Primary Care Transformation Network for members across the UK. I would urge Scottish members already leading this work and those just starting to get involved to join the network to share with and learn from other members by contacting
  • Kenryck Lloyd-Jones is CSP’s policy officer for Scotland

Further reading

Improving workforce planning for primary care in Scotland

Kenryck Lloyd Jones is the CSP’s public affairs and policy manager Scotland

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