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Self-referral for physiotherapy slashes costs

Getting patients to refer themselves to physiotherapy slashed care costs by almost a third compared with referral through a GP, a study by one NHS primary care service has found.

The musculoskeletal screening service in Barnsley introduced a self-referral system – with telephone triage from senior physiotherapists – in parallel with existing GP referrals, and then compared costs, attendances and patients’ experience between the two groups over nine months.

Compared with GP-referral, the self-referral route cut the cost of care by 32%, with an average saving of £36.42 per patient per episode of care. This was mainly down to reductions in missed appointments and the overall number of contacts with clinicians, according to the study authors, from Sheffield Hallam University.

Waiting times were also cut significantly by self-referral, with an average time to first assessment of 3.5 days compared with 31 for GP referral, while patients reported similar satisfaction overall with their care.

The researchers estimated that introducing self-referral across the service could save around one clinical staff post and about £100,000 a year.

They concluded: ‘Introduction of the described self-referral pathway was feasible, cost-effective and offered comparable care.’

Musculoskelet Care 2014; available online 26 May


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