‘Red flag’ health warning cards available in 28 languages

Quick reference diagnostic cards to help physiotherapists and their patients identify serious ‘red flag’ conditions have been translated into 28 languages at a Cambridgeshire trust.

James Selfe said the cards showed that a simple idea could be transformational

The idea for the translations came from physiotherapy clinical lead Jayne Davies and extended scope practitioner Komal Bhuchhada who work in Peterborough for Dynamic Health, Cambridgeshire Community Services NHS Trust’s musculoskeletal service.

Peterborough is home to a diverse population and Ms Davies said feedback about the cards had been ‘wonderful’ since they became available in July.

‘One of our physios was unable to get a patient to understand whether or not he had cauda equine syndrome,’ said Ms Davies.

‘He was able to show the gentlemen the card in his own language, Slovak, and then strike up a conversation which established that he didn’t have this problem.’

There are two versions of the card. One shows the warning signs of cauda equina, while the other shows the signs of metastatic spinal cord compression.

The credit card-style aids, which can be stored in a wallet, have been widely used. Among the organisations promoting them is Scotland's health information service, NHS 24, which printed 100,000. The National Cancer Action Team funded the printing of 300,000 for distribution across England and Wales.

Physiotherapists and other health professionals can download the cards free of charge (see below).

Physios see patients earlier

‘Physiotherapy is moving upstream,’ said James Selfe, professor of physiotherapy at Manchester Metropolitan University. ‘More physios are seeing more patients much earlier in their medical journey, than would have been the case previously.’

With Susan Greenhalgh, consultant physiotherapist at Bolton NHS Trust, Professor Selfe was instrumental in developing the cards.

‘Certainly, when I trained it would be unusual for a physiotherapist to see a patient who had not previously been seen by a doctor, whereas now it’s commonplace,’ he said.

‘That first line filtering of some of these “red flag” issues is being removed and physios are very much occupying the space which GPs used to occupy. And they do need additional training to help spot some of these serious conditions.’

Ms Davies is inviting physiotherapists to email her with stories of how the translated cards have impacted on patient care. Her email address is jaynedavies2@nhs.net.

Meanwhile, Professor Selfe thinks the cards show that a simple idea can be transformational: ‘I’m surprised at what a big difference this is having on both physiotherapy practice in the UK and on the care of patients.

‘There is no doubt that it is making a big difference to the day-to-day care of patients.’


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