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What Is A First Contact Practitioner (FCP) And What Are The Benefits?

This is a relatively new role that was introduced to try to ease the caseload of already overworked GPs. Research has shown that up to 30% of a GPs workload is made of up of Musculoskeletal conditions (MSK) and that this number increases as patients get older. Generally, GPs used to see the patient and then referred them on for physiotherapy without providing a diagnosis or treatment. This was a long, cumbersome process that led to longer waiting lists and referral times.

The FCP role was created, and now this vital role forms an integral part of NHS England’s long-term plan to:

  • Nhs Icon Reduce the burden on GPs for patients with MSK complaints.
  • Nhs Icon Streamline the MSK pathway
  • Nhs Icon ‘Right person, right place, first time’
  • Nhs Icon Make it easier for patients to access specialist MSK knowledge and skills

With the advent of the FCP role, a patient can be seen at the first point of contact, bypassing the need to see the GP. This means that a specialist physiotherapist can treat the patient early on, reducing both waiting times and improving recovery times. It also means that GPs have more free time to treat other patients and allows the waiting lists for appointments to reduce.

In our experience of working with GP surgeries and Primary Care Networks (PCNs), an FCP can save over 40 hours of GP time in the first month and this rises month on month as the staff at the surgery gain confidence in making the referrals.

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Every one of our First Contact Practitioners is a highly-skilled, experienced physiotherapist and works as part of the practice team to support in the assessment, diagnosis, early intervention, treatment and advice for patients with MSK complaints. They are able to refer patients onto specialist services at the earliest opportunity, thus allowing the patient to move seamlessly through the system. They are also trained to identify ‘red flag’ symptoms which would require further medical attention.

In terms of benefits, the patient is seen quicker and by the right person. This means that the early access to treatment will reduce the time suffering with a condition as well as improving the recovery time markedly. This has in turn been proven to reduce sickness absence, accelerate recovery time and improve the long-term health and well-being prospects of patients with MSK complaints. (Addley et al., 2010; Boorman, 2009; NHS Employers, 2012)

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What Are The Benefits?

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Reducing repeat
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Reducing waiting times
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Saving GP time by not seeing MSK conditions, meaning that time can be better used elsewhere
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Avoiding unnecessary referrals to secondary care
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Providing direct access to physiotherapy assessment and intervention
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njection therapy for chronic conditions (under supervision of a non-medical prescriber)

Why choose Xcel Health for your FCP?

We have been providing First Contact Physiotherapy and Podiatry into Primary Care Networks since 2019. We have drawn on our experience in Private Practice to build a robust model to support an already overworked GP population and their practices.

We understand the challenges faced by Primary Care Networks and Doctor’s surgeries and we work together, becoming an integral part of the surgery to ensure that we get the best outcome for patients, first time, every time.

Our highly skilled physiotherapists will be able to work with the reception staff to ensure that the correct patients are referred to them and be present in the surgeries to provide support. They will be able to join local meetings and feedback on clinical outcomes and make onward referrals where appropriate.

Where required, our skilled physiotherapists can work remotely and provide detailed exercise regimes to patients that are unable to attend the surgery in person.

We work together with the Primary Care Networks to reduce waste, such as missed appointments and we are proud of the fact that our DNA rate is below the national 8-12% average. We achieve this through ensuring that the reception staff feel confident about explaining the First Contact Practitioner services and that the patient can see the benefit in meeting with a specialist.

FCP Clinic Outcome

We provide monthly data which can be tailored to the information that the PCNs wish to receive, but typically this will consist of treatment types and a focus on outcomes. Some examples of this are shown below.