About physiotherapists in general practice
Musculoskeletal (MSK) health issues such as back, muscle and joint pains are the most common cause of repeat GP appointments and account for around 1 in 5 of all GP appointments. Most of these issues can be dealt with effectively by a physiotherapist without any need to see a GP.
What is a First Contact Physiotherapist (FCP)?
First contact physiotherapists (FCPs) are specialist MSK physiotherapists working in primary care assessing, diagnosing and managing patients with MSK disorders. Patients have direct access to ‘the right person, in the right place, at the right time’. A large proportion are successfully managed with advice and exercises alone.
Patients can access FCPs in the same way they would access their GP. The first contact nature of the service means that patients see the FCP instead of the GP as they are the most appropriately skilled professional in the MSK field. FCPs have access to the same investigations and referral pathways as GPs. If ongoing physiotherapy or a specialist opinion is needed, FCPs will refer directly into secondary care.
FCPs are highly trained and competent in the assessment of the full spectrum of MSK disorders including the recognition of more serious conditions that may need urgent or emergency referral to hospital.
Further information about FCPs, visit the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy website here.
What will happen during my appointment?
Your appointment will typically take around 20 to 30 minutes.
Your appointment will always include: Telephone, Video or Face-to-face questions regarding your symptoms, condition and background followed by a detailed physical examination.
Depending on assessments, the FCP may also order additional investigations such as X-rays, MRI scans, blood tests, nerve conduction studies and ultrasound scans.
Following assessment, the FCP will develop a management plan with you, which may include any one or more of the following:
- Advice and information about the condition and its management
- A home exercise prescription
- Injection therapy
- Advice or prescription for the use of painkillers or other relevant medication
- Provision of a ‘Fit Note’ (MED3 certificate)
- Onward referral to another primary care provider, such as your GP, Advanced Clinical Practitioner / Nurse Practitioner, Social Prescriber, Pharmacist, Mental Health Practitioner or similar service such as Therapy For You.
- Onward referral to a secondary care specialist, such as Orthopaedics, Rheumatology, Pain Management, Physiotherapy or Neurology.
Do or Don’t I book to see a First Contact Physiotherapist?
- All soft tissue injuries, sprains, strains or sports injuries
- Arthritis – any joint
- Possible problems with muscles, ligaments, tendons or bone, such as tennis elbow, carpal tunnel syndrome, ankle sprains
- Back pain, including lower back, thoracic and neck pain
- Back pain that includes arm or leg symptoms such as pins and needles
- Mobility changes
- After orthopaedic surgery
- Acutely unwell in yourself
- Child under 16 years old
- Medication review or medication to treat rheumatoid conditions
- Headache assessment
- Having a mental health crisis (call 111 Option 2)