Use first contact physiotherapists to tackle MSK backlog, PCNs urged

The CSP is urging primary care networks (PCNs) to take up funding for first contact physiotherapists to help tackle a backlog of MSK appointments as lockdown eases.

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Earlier this year it was announced there would be 100 per cent funding for first contact physiotherapy (FCP) roles as part of the revised GP contract in England, with the ambition being that the whole NHS England patient population has direct access to them by 2023/24.

The CSP is now calling on PCNs to act quickly in order to support GPs to get through an expected backlog of MSK cases driven by the inactivity and stress caused by lockdown, services not being available and the reluctance of many people to seek GP appointments during that time.

Larry Koyama, Head of FCP Implementation at the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, said: ‘FCPs are proven to deliver excellent patient care while easing pressures on GPs and reducing onward referrals for tests, scans and secondary care.

 'That’s why it is now more crucial than ever for PCNs to take up funding for these roles as Covid-19, months of lockdown and reduced activity levels will have had a serious deconditioning effect on millions of people. 

 ‘FCPs can use their expertise to meet this demand, allowing GPs to concentrate on medical cases and the expected increase in appointments sought by people recovering from Covid-19.

There’s funding and there’s a significant need, so we are strongly urging PCNs to include FCPs in their workforce plans.

Lockdown-related pain

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A national evaluation will be published later this month but earlier phases of the studies demonstrated having such roles in GP surgeries saves on time and resources by reducing testing, onward referrals and levels of practice prescribing.

The calls came as figures analysed by the CSP showed Google searches for back pain help rose sharply during April and May and physiotherapists report increasing numbers of patients presenting with lockdown-related pain.

GP attendances fell significantly during the first months of lockdown.

Making movement part of your daily routine

Chris Martey, a first contact physiotherapist working at a GP surgery in Bath and North East Somerset, said: ‘I’ve seen a lot of patients who are struggling now they are working from home – or not working at all – both physically and mentally.

‘Many feel their new routines are impacting how active they can be and it’s clear that many have unfortunately become much more sedentary, missing out on the regular movement throughout the day that keeps our bones, joints and muscles healthy.

‘As first contact physiotherapists, we are assessing patients remotely – by telephone or video – formulating a diagnosis, then providing advice, guidance and helpful, specific exercises, which many patients are finding makes a real difference.

‘But it is a concern that this potential surge in demand is building up. 

It’s so important for people to keep moving throughout the day to ease aches and pains or prevent them from developing these in the first place.

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