Bristol telephone physiotherapy service could cut waiting times
A telephone-based physiotherapy service could cut waiting times, according to a city study.
Research carried out at Bristol University found that almost half (47 per cent) of patients who received an initial consultation by phone did not require any follow-up appointments. Physiothera**** were able to give them advice about suitable exercises and they no longer suffered symptoms.This meant their care was dealt with quicker than if they had waited for an initial appointment.
The PhysioDirect telephone service was originally set up in Cambridgeshire before moving to Bristol, Somerset and the Midlands.
Chris Salisbury from the Centre for Academic Primary Care at Bristol University worked with researchers elsewhere in the country to establish how effective the service is.
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The research, published in bmj.com shows that waiting lists were reduced, which could help the NHS in dealing with the challenges of an ageing population.
PhysioDirect was compared with usual care in a randomised controlled trial involving 2,256 patients aged 18 or over with musculoskeletal problems between July and December 2009.
Almost half of the PhysioDirect patients (711) were managed entirely by telephone. They also had fewer face-to-face appointments than those in usual care and fewer physiotherapy consultations of any type. The PhysioDirect patients also had a shorter wait for physiotherapy treatment, waiting seven days rather than 34 and were less likely to fail to attend appointments.
The study found that care based on PhysioDirect was equally clinically effective compared with usual care and provides faster access to advice and treatment. However, no evidence was found of improved patient satisfaction. They said they were almost as satisfied with their consultations as patients who waited for their first appointment for an assessment.
Prof Salisbury told The Post: "We found that telephone assessment should be an option for people if they want it.
"Some people liked it and some people did not like it."
The researchers conclude that PhysioDirect "is equally clinically effective compared with usual care, provides faster access to physiotherapy, and seems to be safe" but there is no evidence that it is associated with increased patient satisfaction.