Central London GP practice continues physio-led exercise classes

A central London GP practice is still running physio-led exercise classes for NHS patients, despite the withdrawal of public funding three years ago.


Victoria Medical Centre has offered patients physio-led exercise classes for four years

The classes at the Victoria Medical Centre are designed for people aged over 50 with musculoskeletal problems and other conditions, most of whom are referred by their GP.

Clare Fone, owner of the Westminster Physiotherapy and Pilates Centre, or a member of her physiotherapy team, delivers the twice-weekly classes.

While the GP practice provides a room for the classes free of charge, for three years they had financial backing from the City of Westminster. When the grant was withdrawn 12 months ago, participants were invited to make a voluntary donation.

The sessions were cut from three to two a week and the numbers attending have fallen slightly, from between 20 and 25, to between 18 and 20. Otherwise, they have continued to provide what Ms Fone described as a very successful service.

‘The GPs are thrilled with the changes they have seen in their patients,’ she said. ‘There is anecdotal evidence of a 75 per cent drop in GP appointments for musculoskeletal issues among those who attend.’

She said the initiative developed during discussions with the medical centre’s head of practice, Dr Susan Rankine, about the PhysioYogaLates classes for people over 50, which Ms Fone has been teaching for 13 years.

‘PhysioYogaLates is aimed at educating people about movement patterns,’ Ms Fone said. ‘Physiotherapists are experts at managing physical ability. In these classes we explain why we do movements, what is happening to body and the importance of good biomechanical positioning.

‘And the joy of the class is that anyone can attend because it’s led by a chartered physiotherapist who has a knowledge of pathologies. All the exercises are controlled and given in stages so people can progress.

‘Also we have the confidence to push people further than an exercise therapist in a gym.’

She described how participants can work together in the same class at different levels. Some people exercise sitting on a chair, while others use a mat.

Advice about healthy eating, better sleep and maintaining good mental health are part of the educative component of the classes.

Ms Fone said she would welcome the opportunity to deliver more of these classes for NHS patients: ‘If we could roll this out it would be so easy to organise, but it does come down to money.’

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