Viewpoint: Rob Webster asks if physios are ready for the work ahead

Rob Webster from the NHS Confederation says that physio staff’s time has come

Soon, 18 million people will have a long-term condition, six million of those will have a mental health issue and three million will live with three or more conditions. The idea that these patients will be discharged from our care is redundant. What they do need is supported self care, operating as the default, and integrated teams providing coordinated care. These teams will involve the patient, carer, families, third sector, social care and providers of NHS care. Physiotherapy will be critical in these teams and in a supported self-care model.

In my last job, I used to go back to the floor once a fortnight. Just before I left, I spent time with the community physio team in the rehab service. Three patients stand out. We helped an older lady, Mary, living in poor circumstances with her gait. Her new shoes meant she couldn’t get up the steps without catching her feet. We helped a young man, Javid, with a brain injury and his employer understand the tools he needed to get the bus, operate his computer and navigate the office. We gave succour and exercises to a middle-aged man, Tom, whose stroke had left him unable to help his family and who was trying too hard to get back to fitness, leaving him unwell.

These are everyday stories. Three short interventions on caseloads that were changing lives. Because we were helping Mary up the steps so she could spend time with her housebound friend in the flat upstairs. Javid was getting back into work with a sensitive employer who made reasonable adjustments. Tom would never play the guitar again but would hopefully be fit enough to help decorate his daughter’s flat before the baby came. These little miracles of kindness and compassion are all about us. They underline the importance of a profession that will be a fundamental part of the future of health and care – and that’s before we start talking about prevention, support for fitness, the burden of musculoskeletal issues on employers and employees, and the excellent work of physios in hospitals.

It feels to me like your time has come. Are you ready? Visit the NHS Confederation

Rob Webster, chief executive, NHS Confederation

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