Physiotherapists are ready, willing and able to help relieve pressure on general practice by reducing the burden of care created by conditions readily treated by physiotherapy.

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners’ (RACGP) recent General Health of the Nation report names musculoskeletal conditions as the second-most commonly reported reason for patient presentation according to 39 per cent of GPs. This, coupled with recent reports from both the RACGP and Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) on the burnout experienced by doctors, shows the urgent need to invest in integrated and collaborative care.

The Australian Physiotherapy Association (APA) is calling for greater long-term investment in team-based health care through the establishment of a First Contact Physiotherapy model to relieve the pressure on GPs and enhance patient outcomes.

First Contact Physio, which is used successfully in the UK, provides more streamlined and effective access to diagnosis, treatment, and care of musculoskeletal pain and related conditions. This model enables access to the right care at the right time from the right health professional underpinned by Medicare rebates while reducing the demand for potentially unnecessary imaging and pain medications.

“Physios understand the stress GPs are under in trying to provide the best health outcomes and the best ‘patient journey’. No one wants to see unnecessary delays and potentially unnecessary referrals and prescribing”, Scott Willis, President of the APA, said.

“The First Contact Physiotherapy model is underpinned by appropriately qualified physiotherapists who are able to assess, diagnose, treat and discharge a person without a medical referral – where appropriate.”

“In the UK, the roll-out of this model reduced waiting times, relieved pressure on GPs and led to enhanced patient outcomes.”

“With 28 per cent of GPs reporting a deterioration in mental health as a result of COVID-19, it really is time for primary care health professionals to leverage each other’s strengths and work collaboratively to support improved patient outcomes and, to ensure our healthcare workforce also remain healthy and able to deliver best quality services.” Mr Willis said.

RACGP General Health of the Nation report.

Scott Willis is available for further comment.


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