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A major breakthrough for physiotherapy

The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP) has hailed the NHS’s new long term plan as “a major breakthrough for physiotherapy.” The ten year plan which was launched on 7 January 2019 aims to improve the quality of patient care and health outcomes by focusing not only on treatment and ongoing management of conditions but also on prevention. There is also a renewed emphasis on developing digital solutions in order to speed up access to health services and treatments.


With this in mind the core of the new plan aims to enable everyone to get the best start in life, to help communities to live well and to help people to age well. This includes a focus on treatment of major conditions such as cancer, heart and respiratory disease as well as a renewed emphasis on mental wellbeing.


Key to implementation is a move towards an integrated service which will provide both in-patient and home care as required. Treatments are to be patient-focused and will look towards providing an integrated solution. For example, breathlessness can be caused by both pulmonary and cardiac problems so collaboration between those two disciplines could lead to a combined treatment programme.


In terms of physiotherapy specifically, deployment of the new plan will lead to an increase in the number of physiotherapists in primary care alongside the use of first contact physiotherapists. In addition the new emphasis on whole person rehabilitation will require increased levels of physiotherapy contact in a number of disciplines.


But it is not just physiotherapists who will be positively impacted by this new plan. The fresh emphasis on whole patient care will impact a range of health professions from podiatrists to dentists and hair care professionals. The challenge will be to ensure that not only is the right support identified for an individual, the resources are in place to provide that support. Whether that leads to increased training requirements is perhaps a discussion for another time. What is certainly true is that existing health professionals are going to have to work smarter in order to optimise patient care.


The What Happens Next section of the NHS site dedicated to the ten year plan says that “From publication until the summer of 2019 staff, patients and the public will have the opportunity to help their local NHS work out what NHS Long Term Plan means for their area and how to meet our national ambitions in their community.”  This could also be an opportune time for health practices to review their own practices, perhaps looking for time savings in areas such as appointment booking, diary management and the electronic filing of patient records.


Announcing the new plan the Health and Social Care Secretary, Matt Hancock, said the plan “marks an important moment not just for the health service but for the lives of millions of patients and hardworking NHS staff across the country.” But its ambition to deliver integrated care will require it to also draw in professionals from outside the NHS, helping people to manage their conditions in their own homes and communities and to lead independent lives.


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