The crisis in GP recruitment presents a unique opportunity for physiotherapists to demonstrate their value in managing musculoskeletal problems instead of a doctor, says research published in the British Journal of General Practice.
The paper points to evidence that advance practice physiotherapists working in primary care as a first point of contact can deal with up to 30 per cent of a GP’s caseload.
The research analysed data from services at two GP practices in NHS Forth Valley, Scotland. It looked at data from when the services started in November 2015 and during a period when 8,417 were seen by advance practice physios.
Of the patients seen by the physiotherapists instead of GPs, 60.4 per cent received only self-management, and only one per cent needed to be referred to a GP.
The data shows a significant reduction in referrals to orthopaedic services too. At one practice, it was down by 37 per cent, while at the other the reduction was 67 per cent.
Sara Conroy, CSP professional lead for Scotland, said: ‘The research in Forth provides a great example of how physiotherapists replacing GPs provides enormous benefits.
‘Forth Valley was one of the first to do this, but in Scotland we now have this in most health boards.’
Meanwhile, the CSP is looking forward to first contact physiotherapy services being fully implemented across the UK.
Ms Conroy added: ‘There are other areas where physiotherapy skills could be directed to take pressure off GPs. Frailty management and respiratory care are just two examples.’
The CSP Library Catalogue and Discovery service can provide members with the full text of the research paper. The full title of the paper is: Physiotherapist as an alternative to a GP for musculoskeletal conditions: a two year service evaluation of UK primary care.
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