Physiotherapy: Your business

Natalie Beswetherick, director of practice and development at the CSP, introduces our series of articles
on the new demands facing physios.

Wherever you work in the UK, it is clear that your government wants to reduce the cost of providing NHS services. While each country is adopting a different approach, the result is the same. Physiotherapy services in the NHS and beyond have to demonstrate they can provide a high quality cost effective service in order to compete with other providers. 

Why is this so important? The answer is if you don’t, your service will no longer be bought. The NHS is being commercialised, particularly in England, where large private sector companies such as Virgin Care and Care UK are winning tenders and chiropractors and osteopaths are entering the market under the any qualified provider initiative.

NHS physios are pitching against their colleagues in the private sector for the right to continue to offer their services from within the NHS. They don’t want to see existing provision destroyed, or to see shortcuts made in care. And they want their patients to receive a good service whatever their financial means.

Business skills

What does this mean? Physiotherapy services need to develop their business skills to be able to compete with the ‘big boys’ and with those professions who are smart about marketing, the use of data – and who know their true costs.

Members who have woken up to this threat have expressed concern that they do not have the relevant business skills. While many members will not have received any formal training in these areas, you will have highly developed communication, analysis and influencing skills, all of which are transferable to this new competitive environment.

Every patient contact is an opportunity to market your service, and every patient reporting back to his or her GP on how effective physiotherapy was for a condition will influence future GP behaviour. Don’t forget
to use these opportunities.

Take action

This series of articles covering marketing, presenting the evidence and costing have been developed to assist you – whether you work in the private, public or third sector. Each article signposts you to a wealth of additional material that underpins each subject area.

What should you do next? Take action. Start with your website. Remember that in the electronic age this is your shop window. Get it updated with easily accessible information for all. And if you don’t already have one, then get one – and soon.

Next, if you have not done so already introduce a PROM (patient related outcome measure) and a PREM (patient related experience measure) for your service. Do not wait for the development of an outcome measure that is sensitive to a specific physiotherapy intervention – while you are waiting you may lose your service to multi-nationals.

Finally, work out your unit cost for each of the services you provide. Understand your cash cows and your loss leaders; this will assist you in positioning yourself against the competition.

Remember, physiotherapy is your business. Many CSP members working outside the NHS are already considering what opportunities the new arrangements will offer them.

For those of you who have your heads in the sand and those that are on a hamster wheel, too driven by the day to day pressures to see the bigger, strategic picture, now is the time to stop, wake up and find out what is happening in your geographical patch.

Natalie Beswetherick

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