Abi Henderson explains how a new CSP tool can help FCP services identify what they are doing well and how they can make improvements
First Contact Physiotherapy (FCP) services continue to roll out across the UK, meaning more people are benefitting from MSK expertise, right at the start of the pathway.
The potential impact of FCP for patients, GPs and the wider health system is therefore now greater than ever.
In order to optimise the value of FCP roles, attention to the detail of the model is critical. We have developed an evaluation tool for FCP services to identify what is working well and areas for improvement. It describes the fundamental principles that underpin effective and sustainable services, covering areas such as integration with the wider system, embedding within the primary care team and delivering good experiences for both staff and patients.
Each principle is explored in detail to demonstrate what this might look like in practice. These descriptors allow for variation of the FCP model but any variation should be by design to reflect local strategic priorities and population need.
The CSP, British Medical Association and Royal College of General Practitioners recommend that FCPs are employed by local incumbent providers of NHS MSK services. If local systems opt for an alternative, the provider should still consider the principles set out in the evaluation tool, which apply to any employment model or size of service. Using them as a guide will help prevent issues in the longer term. For example, a lack of integration and relationships with the surrounding MSK system, gives rise to gaps in service, poor patient experience and reduction in benefits of the model.
Whether you work in an established FCP service within a large team or you are the only FCP directly employed by a GP, I encourage you to undertake an initial service evaluation against these principles. It may spark an idea for service improvement that could lead to better outcomes for your patients or work experience for yourself.
- For support to use this evaluation tool, please email FCP@csp.org.uk
- Principles of first contact physiotherapy: a resource to support service evaluation
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