Giving doctors in primary care more decision-making powers could have knock-on benefits for physiotherapy

The government's plan to devolve more decision making to frontline NHS services could boost the drive for widespread self-referral to physiotherapy, says the CSP. Health minister John Hutton announced this month (October 6) that from April next year GP practices will be able to receive a budget from primary care trusts (PCTs) to improve service delivery.

Any savings resulting from managing referrals more efficiently will be shared between practices and PCTs, with savings being reinvested in patient care. The Society believes such a move could result in more direct access pilot projects for patients to receive physiotherapy treatment, something it has long called for. Such schemes radically cut 'demands on overworked GPs, speed up patient access to treatment and can save an average five-doctor GP practice a month's consulting time a year', said CSP chief executive Phil Gray. His views are reflected in a message of support the Society received earlier this month from the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP), backing the idea of direct access. The move followed a meeting in June between the Society and the RCGP. Attending for the Society were vice president Natalie Beswetherick, chief executive Phil Gray and head of member networks and relations Pen Robinson, and, for the RCGP, chief executive Hilary De Lyon, chair of council David Haslam and chair of clinical networks Graham Archard. Under the scheme described by the government as 'practice-led commissioning', GPs will have more 'flexibility' and find it easier to deliver services 'tailored to their patients' needs', said Mr Hutton. 'Practice-led commissioning will be ploughed back into the delivery of patient services, therefore increasing investment in primary care,' he added. The proposals outlined by Mr Hutton are being piloted within the NHS over the next few weeks. James Kingsland, chair of the National Association of Primary Care, called the initiative a 'reaffirmation of the government's wish to see primary care clinicians at the forefront of commissioning secondary care services'. Mr Gray told Frontline the CSP's hope was that practice-led commissioning will 'pave the way for the widespread roll-out of direct access provision'. 'For physiotherapists to have optimum impact, they need to have wider and faster access to patients which this initiative will allow.'
Rael Martell

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