Opening the door to physiotherapy

The government’s announcement that it intends to fund an extra 10,000 training places for nurses, midwives and other health professionals has been welcomed by the Chartered Society of Physiotherapists (CSP). Whilst the exact breakdown between the various disciplines is as yet unclear, any increase in physiotherapy training has to be welcomed.

Despite an increase of 15% in the number of physiotherapists graduating this year, the CSP estimates that the profession requires an additional 500 graduates per year in order to cope with rising demand. Commenting on the announcement Karen Middleton, the CSP’s chief executive, said “This opens the door for more physiotherapists to contribute to patient care in much-needed ways, and to address current workforce shortages.”

The demands which an ever ageing population place on the physiotherapy profession cannot be underestimated. Those who are young and relatively fit may see physiotherapy as purely delivering a one-off series of treatments following a sporting injury or other accident, but in fact the physiotherapy remit is far wider.

The NHS choices website comments that “Physiotherapists consider the body as a whole, rather than just focusing on the individual aspects of an injury or illness.” Approaches highlighted by the website include education and manual therapy, together with advice on movement, tailored exercise and physical activity. This means that at any one time physiotherapists are dealing with a complete mix of complex and routine conditions. For example, the first appointment of the day may require the delivery of some form of manual therapy, manipulating the body in order to ease stiffness following a car accident. The next patient through the door may need advice on simple exercises to ease the pain in arthritic fingers, and so on.

Opportunities available for physiotherapists are wide-ranging. Whilst some will work directly within the National Health Service, others may join private practices or work directly for other bodies such as sports clubs or companies. Whichever pathway they follow, they will generally work alongside other health professionals, looking to deliver a complete service which is designed either to keep people fit and healthy or to return them to full mobility as swiftly as possible following an event.

As with everything in the health profession, time is of the essence. Individuals want to be mobile, and health professionals want to help as many individuals as possible to achieve that aim. That’s why the CSP are looking for increased numbers to join the profession, but it’s also why health professionals themselves are increasingly adopting digital solutions to take care of routine tasks.

Quite frankly, every minute of administration time saved is a minute which can be used in helping to improve people’s lives. As a result systems such as the electronic filing of patient notes, the use of secure email to transfer records, and the maintenance of an electronic diary system are now firmly established in many health practices. Add to that services such as appointment reminders by SMS text or email which are helping to reduce the number of no-shows, and physiotherapy time is increasingly being targeted towards treatment rather than administration.

In 2017 there are 2,136 places for physiotherapy students at universities across the country. With the government initiative opening the door for further increases in years to come it can only be good for the future of physiotherapy and of those who rely on it.