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  • Physiotherapists

Why Do We Need FCP Physiotherapists?

As part of the primary care team physiotherapists can promote and implement the practice’s approach to health promotion, early intervention, avoiding unnecessary medication, referrals and hospital admissions, and supporting patient self-management.

There are a range of benefits in employing a First Contact Physiotherapist in Primary Care.

Benefits for patients:

  • Quick access to expert MSK assessment, diagnosis, treatment and advice.
  • Prevention of short-term problems becoming long-term conditions.
  • Improved patient experience.

Benefits for GPs:

  • Release of GP time through re-allocating appointments for patients with MSK problems
  • Reduced prescription costs.
  • In-house MSK expertise gained.
  • Increased clinical leadership and service development capacity.
  • Support in meeting practice targets.

Benefits for Physiotherapists: 

  • Professionally stimulating and rewarding role and use of their professional knowledge and skills, including through stronger links with the multi-disciplinary team.
  • Opportunities to develop and make use of their scope of practice and skills, including those relating to independent, prescribing, injection therapy and imaging referral rights.
  • Opportunities to develop experience, learning and skills in service development, quality improvement and implementation science.

Education Pathways

Physiotherapists able to fulfil high-level roles in primary care have typically completed the following post-registration professional development:

  • Postgraduate level learning relating to MSK conditions (e.g. a full Master’s degree, Master’s level modules, or
    work-based learning at an equivalent level)
  • Acquired and maintained competence in injection therapy
  • Acquired and maintained competence and the right to practise independent prescribing, denoted by their annotation on the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) register as an independent prescriber.
  • This specialist knowledge and skills development will be in addition to a broader range of post-registration learning and development completed since qualification as a physiotherapist. In addition to clinical areas of practice, this is likely to include professional development relating to leadership, management, supporting others’ learning, research and evidence-based practice.

Health Education England e-Learning for Healthcare (HEE e-LfH) has developed the musculoskeletal (MSK) primary care e-learning programme to support clinicians working in primary care as first contact practitioners (FCP). Please click here to find out more.

Please click here to find out more about Roadmaps to Practice from HEE.

Scope of Practice

  • FCPs see patients with (suspected or diagnosed) MSK conditions as the first point of contact, instead of a GP, and can be accessed directly by contacting the practice’s reception.
  • A typical FCP appointment involves assessment, diagnosis and first-line treatment. FCPs can also refer patients for a course of physiotherapy treatment, order investigations or make referrals into secondary care services using the same pathways as GPs. Some FCPs are also able to independently prescribe and provide injection therapy.
  • As a person-centred service, most appointments include self-management advice, social prescribing, and discussions about physical activity and fitness for work.

Case Studies