There is growing evidence that physiotherapists working as the first point of contact in primary care can take pressure off GPs, save the NHS money and lead to better outcomes for patients.
CSP chief executive Karen Middleton: 'We need at least 500 additional physiotherapists each year for the next three years.'
These were among Karen Middleton’s messages to a hearing of the House of Commons health committee about the future of primary care today.
The CSP chief executive told MPs how physiotherapists could help meet the demand for primary care services saying: ‘Musculoskeletal problems – such as neck, back and joint pain – account for 30 per cent of GPs’ caseloads.
Karen Middleton calls for direct physio access in a column for the BBC: read what she says
‘So if a physiotherapist sees those patients as the first point of contact there is a 30 per cent workload taken off GPs and fewer patients are referred on into secondary care.’
Ms Middleton said that there were ‘countless examples across the country’ that demonstrated the benefits of physiotherapists working in primary care to provide the initial assessment, diagnosis and treatment of patients – and discharging or referring them on when necessary.
She told the committee: ‘In Suffolk there is a practice where they provide physiotherapy as the first point of contact across 27 sites. They have not only taken the caseload off GPs, but they have also reduced referrals into secondary care.
‘Hip and knee replacement referrals have reduced by 40 per cent and the conversion rate for surgery for orthopaedics as gone up to 100 per cent, as all those that are referred into secondary care are needing surgery.
‘Not only are patients very satisfied with this approach, but evidence is accumulating that when patients self-refer to physiotherapy they are seen quicker, outcomes are better, they return to work faster and it saves a considerable amount of money for the tax payer.’
The demand for physiotherapy is increasing - because of an ageing population, more people with long term conditions and more complexity.
1,500 more physios needed
‘To meet this demand we need at least 500 additional physiotherapists each year for the next three years.’
The CSP also submitted written evidence to the committee. It includes some of the following recommendations.
- clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) and GPs should expand the use of physiotherapists in GP surgeries
- CCGs should prioritise improving access to multidisciplinary specialist teams within primary care
- CCGs should expand the self-referral model of access in primary care – reducing pressures on GPs and putting patients in charge
- Health Education England (HEE) should expand physiotherapy training to meet growing demand in primary care
- HEE should develop the infrastructure for career development of physiotherapists and other professions with significant potential for primary care
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