New plans to increase self-referrals to physiotherapy services are welcome, says Ash James, but need a stronger workforce to succeed
The government recently announced the delivery plan for recovering access to primary care. Whilst the majority of the announcement talked about improved access to pharmacy, it mentions plans of increasing self-referral into physiotherapy services.
This was welcomed by the CSP which has always advocated for the ability to self-refer into physiotherapy. We know this has been available since 1978 at the advent of our ability to be autonomous practitioners, both in and outside of the NHS.
We also know that self-referral has the ability to improve patient outcomes by providing quicker access for acute conditions, preventing them from becoming chronic. It can expedite return to work, reduce waiting times and improve patient satisfaction by giving them control over their care. Not only is this good for patients it is also cost effective and, for MSK conditions, can represent up to 25 per cent savings for primary care.
All of this, however, cannot be implemented consistently throughout the UK without the workforce to support it. We are in the midst of a workforce crisis in healthcare and access to primary care services and self-referral are not exempt from this. To achieve the transformation we want to see, we need more physiotherapists and physio support workers. Supply is expanding but we need further expansion in all four UK countries to meet current vacancies, new demands, and population pressures.
In primary care we need to see workforce development and expansion in FCPs for the potential here to be realised. The CSP is engaged with health departments across the UK to promote what is needed; advanced practice development programmes and more pre-registration training to backfill roles.
Self-referral has the ability to improve patient outcomes by providing quicker access for acute conditions, preventing them from becoming chronic.
We need the government to publish its long-awaited workforce plan to ensure patients can see the right professional at the right time.
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