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Physiotherapy in Primary Care

Primary health care is a comprehensive, interdisciplinary, patient centred and community-oriented approach to health care. A primary care service is the patient’s first point of entry into the health care system and the continuing focal point for all their health care needs.

Physiotherapists’ qualifications and their ability to screen, diagnose and provide appropriate treatment or referral for musculoskeletal, neurological cardiorespiratory, pediatric and other conditions, has positioned them as important providers of quality health care within the primary care team. Physiotherapists' participation in primary care contributes to addressing the growing demand for health services and the increasing costs associated with delivering these services across Europe. 

Health & Economic Benefits 

Models of physiotherapy service delivery vary throughout European countries, ranging from prescribed treatments by a medical doctor to direct access or self-referral, where patients access physiotherapy services directly, without the need to see a doctor first.

Self-referral is the norm in countries like the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and the UK, and self-referral to physiotherapy in primary care has been fully evaluated and is recommended by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) in the UK.

It has been shown to reduce waiting times, put patients in control, enabling them to manage their condition and live more independently, and improve health outcomes by preventing acute problems from becoming chronic and reducing long term pain and disability, reduce time off work, reduce costs for the NHS in the UK and reduce rates of medication prescribing.

Physiotherapy services have been implemented and studied in various settings such as general practice, orthopaedic outpatient clinics, emergency departments and primary care; and there is evidence to support the management of certain conditions within primary care physiotherapy services rather than in acute hospitals.

Read our Statement on Physiotherapy in Primary Care to learn more and find the references.

Primary Care - Infographic
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