The Nuffield Trust says the NHS could make greater use of physiotherapists to expand service capacity, but that this requires careful role and service redesign to maximise cost benefits.
Reshaped NHS workforce can deliver benefits for patients and more rewarding roles for physios
In its workforce review published on 17 May, the health think tank says that every member of staff should be helped to make the most of their skills. More could be done in every patient interaction, leading to a better use of resources, it says.
Extending the roles of physiotherapists and other non-medical professionals provides opportunities to manage the growing number of people with long-term conditions more efficiently and effectively, the trust says.
It points to evidence showing that new ways of working could release savings and help to bridge workforce gaps – particularly in primary care.
The NHS workforce should be reshaped so that it offers care that is more patient-focused and has better health outcomes, it states. Staff would take on more rewarding roles and have enhanced career pathways as a result.
The document draws on research showing that 70 per cent of GPs’ work could be taken on by allied health professionals and other healthcare staff.
It refers to a review showing that direct access to physiotherapists, instead of a GP referral, for people with musculoskeletal conditions improved patient outcomes and decreased costs.
An analysis of the impact of workforce redesign should be a national research priority, says the report, which also calls for national guidance to help people developing and implementing new roles at a local level to evaluate their impact.
Rachel Newton, CSP policy officer, said: ‘Influential voices like Nuffield Trust are increasingly talking about the potential for extending the role of physiotherapy to solve many of the problems faced by the health system, particularly in primary care.
‘What has helped to bring this about are the fantastic examples of CSP members who are developing new roles and redesigning services.’
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