NHS England announces major expansion of first contact physio jobs

Thousands of first contact physios could be recruited to work in primary care over the next five years, following NHS England’s announcement of a new GP contract.

Musculoskeletal health issues account for around a fifth of all GP appointments. Photo: Charles Milligan

The announcement is the first workforce development following the publication of the NHS Long Term Plan for England last month.

The five-year contract, which was agreed today, will lead to the recruitment of up to 22,000 multidisciplinary staff within GP practices, including extra physiotherapists, pharmacists and social prescribers.

The proposals will allow more physiotherapists to provide patients with musculoskeletal checks, which will help to free up time for GPs and reduce their workload – as musculoskeletal health issues currently account for around one in five of all GP appointments.

An increase in first contact physiotherapy will also reduce secondary referrals, help older people avoid falls and stay independent for longer, and save the NHS money.

CSP chief executive Karen Middleton said: ‘This is excellent news for patients seeking help for a muscle, bone and joint problem in primary care.

‘It’s a model that is already working across the country to ensure patients see the right professional at the right time, while easing the pressure our GP colleagues are under.

‘It’s about expanding the team to make full use of the expertise available to the NHS and it is shown to improve patient outcomes and save money by cutting the number of unnecessary tests and referrals.

‘The latest GP contract in Scotland includes first contact physios so we strongly welcome the news that England is following suit.’

The announcement comes as Frontline highlights the success of a first contact physiotherapy service in Surrey, which is reducing GP’s workloads and enhancing patient care

The NHS should recruit first contact physiotherapists at Band 7-8a, according to the new GP contract.

Increased funding for primary care networks

The new deal will provide nearly £2 billion of funding to support the formation of primary care networks, which will bring together a range of health, care and wellbeing services in local areas.

In the first year of implementation the networks will receive funding to employ social prescribers and clinical pharmacists, and in following years up to 70 per cent of the funds will be allocated to physiotherapists, physician associates and paramedics.

Technological targets

NHS England also plans to provide additional funding to boost IT services and allow more patients to make use of technology.

As part of the changes GP practices will be expected to

  • make 25 per cent of their appointments bookable online
  • give new patients access to their digital records as standard
  • provide digital-first primary care options, including web and video consultations, by 2021
  • provide patients with digital access to their full records from 2020

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