Welcomed by the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP), the document from the Primary Care Workforce Commission looked at how primary and community care services are now facing major challenges.
Although the UK has been at the forefront of modern primary care development, an increasing workload, an ageing population, and increasingly complex medical problems are meaning that community care is becoming more difficult.
It also highlighted how the role of health professionals is changing, with the relationship between themselves and the public having an increasing focus on helping people make informed decisions about their own care.
However, the report notes how investment in primary care has fallen behind that given to hospitals.
It reads: “Between 2003 and 2013, the number of hospital consultants increased by 48 per cent while GP numbers increased by only 14 per cent. Indeed, the number of GPs per head of population has declined since 2009, with major problems of recruitment and retention.”
“Furthermore, many primary care premises now appear outdated in relation to the extended range of services that should be provided in the community.”
The report states that this problem can only be solved by using the specialist skills of certain professionals to their full potential, such as calling on physiotherapists to deal with musculoskeletal (MSK) problems.
Professor Karen Middleton, CSP chief executive, said the report highlights the crucial role physiotherapists will play in delivering future primary care. She added that it promotes self-referral to physiotherapy as part of a wider system that is based around the needs of patients.
This, Professor Middleton said, should be adopted in the 70 per cent of areas where it doesn’t already exist, with the report also highlighted the potential benefits that could be unleashed if more physiotherapists acted as independent prescribers and also worked in practices alongside GPs as a first point of contact.
Led by Professor Martin Roland, the Primary Care Workforce Commission report looked at the cost savings that could be made by encouraging self-referrals to physios and using them as part of a falls service.
It said that evidence suggests the cost self-referred physiotherapy consultations may be less than for patients referred by GPs, but that many studies do not look at the overall impact on general practice workload.
The report warned that the cost-effectiveness of individual physiotherapy interventions is likely to depend on whether they substitute for, or are additional to, standard GP care and whether the economic benefits of returning to work are taken into account. However, it highlighted how the ability of physios to work independently in primary care would be enhanced if they were more widely able to prescribe, as this would reduce the need for parallel GP appointments.
“The vision outlined by Mr Roland is an exciting one and should be backed by government with appropriate funding,” she concluded.
Written by Alex Franklin Stortford