The weekend starts here

A team of physio assistants is helping patients make progress every day, says Louise Hunt

The introduction of band 4 physiotherapy assistant practitioners is supporting a new weekend rehabilitation service. The scheme is enabling patients to regain physical independence more quickly, says band 7 physiotherapist Allaina Eden, who developed the role.

The three assistants are based at Papworth Hospital foundation trust in Cambridge – the UK’s largest cardiothoracic specialist hospital. The scheme was triggered by a move to seven-day working: doctors and physios wanted to be able to provide weekend rehab and discharge.

The assistants work autonomously over the weekends, although they can call upon qualified colleagues in the hospital, if need be. They also provide back-up for the physio team during the week.

Ms Eden, critical care and cardiothoracic surgery physiotherapy team leader, says her first task in creating the role was to develop a profile, backed by a 20-page competency document covering every aspect of their work.

‘It is such a new role and I wanted to make sure they knew who is appropriate to treat and the differences between qualified and non-qualified roles,’ she says. ‘It was my baby and I wanted to make sure it worked.’

The band 4s have been trained to deliver exercises to non-complex post-op patients with no previous respiratory problems who have already been assessed by a qualified physiotherapist. They see on average 13 to 15 patients a day.

They also assess and treat new cardiology mobility referrals and can discharge patients over the weekend.

‘If any patient develops problems, they will be referred immediately to a qualified physiotherapist,’ adds Ms Eden.

The new posts spring from research she did on roles last year, using work diaries. This highlighted that the team was top-heavy and could benefit from more non-qualified staff, skilled enough to work with some independence.

The posts attracted high-calibre applicants. They were filled last October by a newly qualified physiotherapist and two recently qualified sports therapists.

‘We were looking for people with a background in healthcare who could get off the ground quickly,’ she says.

Their input now allows patients to make improvements in physical ability over the weekend. For some, says Ms Eden, ‘it is the difference between just being able to walk to the toilet on Monday and being ready to be discharged’. They may also be reducing the number of patients having to be referred to general hospitals after developing complications.

‘We are thrilled with how the model is working. If there’s a day where the assistant practitioners are not in, they really are missed,’ adds Ms Eden. fl

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Louise Hunt

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