First Contact Physio – telephone triage service now available in all GP surgeries in Portsmouth

A new physiotherapy triage service means direct access to care for Portsmouth residents.

People with muscle and joint-related pains can now get direct access to a new service available across the city. Following a successful trial, the First Contact Physio service is now available in all GP surgeries in Portsmouth; this puts patients directly in touch with a physiotherapist, without the need to see another clinical professional.

The new triage service is being delivered by Solent NHS Trust as part of Health and Care Portsmouth, and is running in surgeries across the city Monday to Friday 8am to 12pm.

Musculoskeletal (MSK) symptoms are one of the most common reasons for repeat consultations with 1 in 5 people contacting their GP with a problem.

With over 200,000 people living in the city, First Contact Physio will benefit many people as well as freeing up GP appointments for those who need them most. When they contact their surgery, patients with symptoms like back or neck pain, or a hip, knee or shoulder complaint, may be offered a same-day telephone appointment with a specialist physiotherapist. The consultation will provide an opportunity for patients to gain advice or treatment to speed up recovery.

Theresa Costello, Musculoskeletal Physiotherapist at Solent NHS Trust, said: “We are very pleased to be rolling out this service. Many of the patients we help just need support and guidance, from the right clinician, on what they can do to help alleviate or manage their symptoms. This can be done quickly and effectively through our telephone triage consultation without any further appointments being required. For patients that have required further assessment, it has been fantastic to be able to offer  them early access to the physiotherapy service. This has enabled patients to have an assessment, receive a diagnosis and start appropriate treatment far sooner. We are the only service in the locality that is managing on-the-day demand for MSK conditions from primary care with the telephone triage model.”

Muscle and joint related symptoms are often a common reason for both urgent and repeat GP consultations; however, the majority of these do not need to be assessed by a GP. Last year, the service helped to free up 2,940 urgent primary care appointments across Portsmouth. The feedback that has been receiving from both patients and primary care teams has been resoundingly positive.

One service user said: “I think this is an excellent service, the person I spoke to was very professional. They took the time to explain my symptoms and gave me exercises to help my condition.”

Another patient added: “I was very surprised at how quick it was. The physiotherapist was able to arrange an appointment for me and the person I saw was fantastic. They helped me so much that I haven’t had to go back.”

Dr John Thornton, from Kirklands Surgery in Portsmouth, said: “It is a highly efficient system that gets patients help in a timely fashion from experts in their field and as a bonus frees us up as GPs to help those who need our other skills.”

Dr Linda Collie, GP and Chief Clinical Officer at Portsmouth Clinical Commissioning Group said: “We know we need to change how health services operate in the city and this is one of the ways we are trying to improve out of hospital care for our residents.

“The physio triage service makes great sense for our patients. Doctors like me are not specialists in this area so it would be much more useful for our patients to see a physiotherapist directly to ensure they get the care they need more efficiently. This will free up our time to see those who need us most whilst ensuring all patients get the appropriate care and support.”

Patients also have the option to self refer to physio via the Solent NHS Trust website at: www.solent.nhs.uk/msk