A scheme which places physiotherapists directly into general practice is to be rolled out across North Wales after a pilot showed it freed up GP time.
Results from a nine-month trial in four practices found a 16% reduction in referrals to hospital-based services.
And nearly 2,000 appointments were made directly with the physiotherapists which would have otherwise been made with the GP.
The Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, who employed the physiotherapists in the practices, said it had led to a significant number of GP appointments being freed up for patients with other medical queries.
Robert Caine, a physiotherapist who worked in the practices said: ‘Patients requiring rapid access to physiotherapy are getting it, and they are choosing to access it themselves by contacting the GP surgery and getting a direct appointment with the physiotherapist.
‘By patients seeing us first, the pressure on GPs is reduced, for both first time and follow up appointments for conditions requiring physiotherapy.’
Ten full time physiotherapists are now being planned to cover 40 practices across North Wales.
Dr David Robyns-Owen, a GP in the Treflan Surgery in Pwllheli and who trialled the scheme, said musculoskeletal problems accounted for a high percentage of their daily workload and they had been delighted to take part in the pilot.
‘I have had extremely positive feedback from all the patients who have seen the physiotherapists,’ he said.
Dr Robyns-Owen even had to make use of the service himself after twisting his back.
He said: ‘Within 15 minutes they had defined the cause of the problem and given me exercises which were immediately beneficial.
‘The future of primary care is that of integrating specialties such as physiotherapy, diabetic specialist nurses and mental health teams within practices.’