We are all familiar with the routine of visiting our local GP – whatever health concern we may be experiencing, he or she is normally the first port of call.
But, is that default setting always the right one?
Barely a week passes without pressures on primary care making the headlines.
We know, only too well, that GPs are facing huge demand, with patients waiting longer for appointments. One of the biggest issues, raised by patients and GPs alike, is that consultations are too short.
These strains are leading GPs to look for new ways of doing things.
First point of contact
One approach being taken is to bring physiotherapists into their surgery as the first point of contact for patients with musculoskeletal conditions. After all common concerns, such as neck or back pain, make up as much as 30% of a GP’s appointment time.
Physiotherapy plays an important role for people with a musculoskeletal condition: it can help restore movement and function. Physiotherapists are autonomous practitioners able to assess, diagnose, prescribe, manage and discharge patients without the need to see a GP.
This is not just an idea. Physiotherapists are already working in a number of GP surgeries across the country.
In West Cheshire physiotherapists are already available in practices for patients with musculoskeletal conditions. During a three-month pilot over 700 patients accessed the service who would otherwise have seen a GP.
As a result of funding from the Prime Minister’s Challenge Fund, the service was expanded to cover all 36 GP practices in West Cheshire.
New evidence from Nottingham is further demonstrating the benefits and showing high levels of patient satisfaction. Successful services are also up and running in Hampshire and Wales.
The coalition of support continues to grow at a national level too.
Good for patients
The Prime Minister made it clear he wants to see physiotherapists in surgeries and the British Medical Association – which represents doctors – has said that the approach is “good for patients, good for practices and good for the wider NHS.”
In addition, patient charities like Arthritis Research UK back it as a way of providing better care for the 10 million people living with arthritis.
In recent weeks NHS England published a new plan to help meet demand in primary care. It highlighted the importance of utilising the entire workforce, including physiotherapists, and pledged more funding for pilot schemes.
Over the coming months and years many more people will call their local surgery for an appointment with a GP and be offered the opportunity to see a physiotherapist instead.
Growing evidence and experience shows this change will mean people are seen quicker, get access to the right expertise, ease GP pressures, reduce onward referrals to hospital and save the NHS money.
The CSP is campaigning to ensure physiotherapists are coming to a surgery near you soon.