How Totally plc’s Planned Care Division is working with the NHS to deliver services in primary care to improve low back and neck pain in patients.
As part of their 10-year plan, the NHS aims to give all patients access to a First Contact Practitioner (FCP) by 2023/24. FCPs are regulated, advanced and autonomous health professionals trained to provide expert musculoskeletal (MSK) assessment, diagnosis and first line treatment, as well as an onward referral if necessary. Richard Benson, Managing Director of Totally’s Planned Care Division, describes the huge potential FCP offers patients to improve general health and wellbeing, and considers how the division is currently working to mobilise COVID-safe services in several locations in England.
Low back and neck pain is the greatest cause of years lost to disability, with chronic joint pain or osteoarthritis affecting over 8.75 million people in the UK. Over 30 million working days are lost due to musculoskeletal (MSK) conditions every year in the UK and they account for 30% of GP consultations in England.
We know that early access to physiotherapy considerably improves health and wellbeing in people with MSK problems. The FCP model improves access for patients by bringing the physiotherapist into GP practices – when the patient contacts their GP practice with low back and neck pain, they are offered an appointment with an FCP in the first instance. This eliminates the need for a GP appointment and subsequent referral, and significantly reduces how long the patient waits for treatment. Not only is this better for patients, it also reduces the number of referrals GPs must make freeing up precious time for other patients. Quicker access to care also means a reduction in unnecessary prescribing of painkillers to those patients having to wait long periods for a referral.
The way we deliver healthcare across all our services has had to adapt since the pandemic to ensure both healthcare professionals and patients remain protected from the risks associated with COVID-19. While the COVID-19 vaccine is being successfully rolled out across the UK, with millions now receiving their first dose, it is still crucial we remain vigilant across all our healthcare services. As such, the first session with an MSK practitioner is currently carried out virtually, and once this initial assessment has taken place, a treatment plan is discussed with the patient. At this stage, a face-to-face consultation may be required. Patients will then be invited to a fully COVID-safe setting in line with the latest COVID guidance from the NHS and the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy. Following assessment, the practitioner will then prescribe the appropriate course of treatment, including general self-care advice to support behaviour change, the patient’s fitness for work and their general physical activity levels. The practitioner can also administer joint/soft tissue injections if required and refer the patient for onward care or diagnostics.
Across all aspects, this model of care makes a huge difference to the day-to-day lives of patients who experience low back and neck pain and significantly reduces GP’s workload.
We currently provide FCP services in a number of practices in England and are working with GPs to roll out more services in new locations, ensuring patients can access the care they need quickly and efficiently.
To find out more, contact the First Contact Practitioner Team – firstname.lastname@example.org
For more info about planned care in the NHS 10 year plan – https://www.longtermplan.nhs.uk/online-version/chapter-3-further-progress-on-care-quality-and-outcomes/better-care-for-major-health-conditions/short-waits-for-planned-care/