South Eastern HSC Trust sets the pace on first contact physiotherapy

South Eastern HSC Trust is believed to be the first in Northern Ireland to introduce a first contact physiotherapy service.


The initiative was launched on 1 December with an advanced practitioner physiotherapist placed in a GP practice in Comber, Co Down.

A trust spokesperson told Frontline: ‘We are very excited to be carrying out this four month pilot, which will be fully evaluated and the results shared with the region.’

In June 2015 South Eastern was the first in Northern Ireland to introduce self-referral to physiotherapy services for patients over 16 years with a musculoskeletal (MSK) problem.

Currently approximately 45 per cent of referrals from primary care for the trust’s MSK physiotherapy outpatient services come via the direct access route.

However at present 21 per cent of these patients still contact their GP practice prior to referring themselves to the service, and a further 55 per cent still see their GP and ask to be referred.

‘There is therefore  an opportunity for our physiotherapy services to support GPs further and build capacity and diversity in the primary care workforce through increasing physiotherapy roles in general practice settings,’ the spokesperson said.

The physiotherapist providing a first point of contact service in a GP practice means that patients presenting with a MSK problem will be offered an appointment with a physiotherapist in the GP practice.

The Comber appointment is a Band 8a physio qualified to independently prescribe, order investigations, carry out injection therapy and plan complex case management including onward referral to secondary care.

A number of pilots have been running in various parts of the UK and results have shown improved patient outcomes, high satisfaction rates and significant cost savings.

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