Study highlights benefits of physiotherapists as first point of contact in primary care

Having physiotherapists as a first point of contact for patients in GP practices has multiple benefits for the healthcare sector, according to results from a recent national evaluation led by Keele University.  

The “First Contact Physiotherapy” (FCP) model has been designed to streamline the process of accessing healthcare for patients with musculoskeletal problems, which currently account for 14% of GP consultations, in a bid to increase capacity within and improve access to primary care. Patients with musculoskeletal pain can contact the FCP directly, rather than wait to see a GP.

The FCP model has been under a three-phase evaluation since 2018. The third and final phase of the evaluation was led by Dr Siobhan Stynes and Dr Annette Bishop, from Keele University, who evaluated the FCP model against pre-defined success criteria.  

Their findings, which have now been published by the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, showed that the FCP model demonstrates huge benefits for both patients and healthcare practitioners.

Phase 3 was a collaboration between Keele University and the University of Nottingham and consisted of a mixed-methods national evaluation of the FCP model of care. The work was funded and supported by the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy Charitable Trust and the Joint Work and Health Unit. The team from Keele University included Dr Stynes and Dr Bishop, Professor Nadine Foster, Dr Gwenllian Wynne Jones, Professor Kelvin Jordan, Dr Jonathan Hill and Dr Elizabeth Cottrell.

The findings showed that the model had positive benefits for patient care and expanded the skills and expertise on offer in primary care settings.

They also found very high levels of patient satisfaction while making a series of recommendations for successful implementation of the model.

Dr Siobhan Stynes from Keele University said: “Our results give novel data on the characteristics and clinical outcomes of patients who are accessing the FCP services and shows that the FCP model is achieving key success criteria and well received by patients, GPs and physiotherapists.”

Earlier phases of the evaluation also highlighted the benefits that FCPs seeing musculoskeletal patients can have for GPs’ caseloads.