Sussex physio self-referral service wins ‘quality improvement’ award

A self-referral to physiotherapy initiative has won Sussex Community NHS Trust’s award for improving the quality of patient care.


Pictured at the awards: Dan Lethbridge, physio operational lead at Crawley and Horsham; Jessica Poulton, clinical lead physio at Horsham; Sally York, physiotherapy pathway lead at Sussex MSK Partnership; Helen Ross-Gower, operational manager at Sussex Community NHS Trust ; Rachel Turner, physiotherapy operational team lead at Crawley

The award went jointly to the musculoskeletal (MSK) outpatient teams at Horsham and Crawley hospitals. It recognised their self-referral service, which went live in 2017.

Jessica Poulton is clinical lead physiotherapist at Horsham Hospital, where 70 per cent of patients now self-refer. She said: ‘It’s an innovative way of getting patients to the right place first time, instead of going through their GP.

‘We are taking a lot of pressure off GPs – 30 per cent of their patients come with MSK conditions. It has potential to save money for the NHS too.

‘While we still see the same number of patients, they are seeing fewer health professionals before they reach us. And they are coming to us wanting physiotherapy – they have chosen to refer to us.’

Self-referral was introduced in Horsham in July 2017 and in Crawley two months later.

Virtual clinics

Both GPs and patients have been very positive about self-referral to physiotherapy, Ms Poulton said.

‘GPs had been concerned we would miss ‘red flags’, such as potential cauda equina syndrome, so we implemented “virtual clinics” at the point of triage,’ she said.

‘For example, if a patient had back pain, leg pain and pins and needles, we would book them for a phone consultation and assess whether they needed a referral to the clinical assessment triage and treatment service, or other appropriate services.’

Physiotherapy self-referral started at Horsham and Crawley hospitals’ sister sites, the Princess Royal and Queen Victoria hospitals in 2016.

‘We were able to use the lessons learnt and adopt the positive practises from this to implement the service at Horsham and Crawley,’ Ms Poulton added.


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