A total of 41% of CCGs operate at least a pilot scheme that allows patients to self-refer to a physiotherapist based in a GP practice rather than having to visit their GP first, according to research by the Chartered Society of Physiotherapists (CSP).
Direct access to NHS physiotherapy could slash practice workload by up to 20-30% and save practices up to £1,000 a week, the CSP believes, because musculoskeletal issues account for around a third of GP practice consultations.
GPC education, training and workforce subcommittee chair Dr Krishna Kasaraneni said: ‘Physiotherapists have the clinical expertise to assess, diagnose and treat patients with a range of conditions.
‘At a time of unprecedented patient demand and rising GP workload, this has the potential to reduce pressure and free up capacity in general practice.’
RCGP chair Dr Maureen Baker said: 'GPs and our teams are currently under considerable resource and workforce pressures, so we are extremely grateful for any initiative that aims to ease these pressures.
‘Broadening the skill-mix in general practice is a key element in NHS England’s GP Forward View as a means of giving GPs more time to spend with patients and put our profession back on a sustainable footing.
‘We have already championed a successful scheme to place pharmacists in GP surgeries, and we are open to similar initiatives with other healthcare professionals, such as physiotherapists, in the best interests of patient care.'
GP fit notes
Guidance backed by the RCGP and BMA published today sets out examples of how to set up physio schemes.
A government green paper released earlier this week, which set out plans for an overhaul of GPs' role in writing fit notes, highlighted a West Cheshire scheme that allows patients to go direct to a physiotherapist.
CSP chief executive Professor Karen Middleton said: ‘It makes no sense for patients to be made to see a GP to get a referral when a physiotherapist can assess them just as effectively in the first instance.
‘Seeing a physiotherapist instead means their rehabilitation can start immediately if needed and allows GPs to spend more time with patients who need a medical diagnosis.