Outstanding first year for Western Isles FCP service

FCPs Alana MacPhee and Eleanor Maule manage all nine FCP practices within the Western Isles.

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The First Contact Physiotherapy (FCP) Service in the Western Isles recently celebrated its first anniversary and reports patient satisfaction in the service has been consistently high.

In a recent survey of patients who used the service, all respondents said it either met or exceeded their expectations. All patients surveyed were also confident in the knowledge and skills of the FCP and the vast majority would prefer to see a FCP again if they had another Musculoskeletal (MSK) problem.

The FCP service was set up in the Western Isles in June 2021 as part of a national drive to help with rising GP workloads. Working with the aim of ‘seeing the right person, at the right time’, it allows people access to specialist MSK advice quickly. This ensures a timely diagnosis, early management and onward referral when necessary.

The FCP service has been established in all nine GP practices within the Western Isles – Lewis to Barra – either in person or remotely. Two thousand appointments were provided in the first year. There are two FCPs, Alana MacPhee and Eleanor Maule, who manage all practices.

GP Dr Dave Rigby said: ‘It’s great to see that after only a year the FCPs have become an essential and integral part of the primary care team.

‘Clinician feedback has been universally positive in terms of having access to a comprehensive MSK assessment for patients within the surgery and having the expertise of the FCPs physically in the practice.

‘As may be expected, the service is well used and in many cases allows earlier access for patients than more traditional routes. If there was one improvement that could be made it would be to clone Alana and Eleanor.’

There are a number of documented benefits in a FCP service including faster access to MSK care, usually less than one week; more in-depth appointments, 30 minutes as opposed to 10 to 15 minutes with GPs; reduced waiting times; high levels of safety and quality of care; reduced referrals to other NHS departments; reduced medication prescribing; less strain on GP practices and cost savings overall.

Patients can access the service directly by contacting their GP practice. If they are over the age of 16 with a MSK condition they can request a direct appointment with the FCP. Patients would normally wait less than a week for an appointment.

Photograph: FCPs Alana MacPhee and Eleanor Maule manage all nine FCP practices in the Western Isles. NO_F31_WesternIslesFCPs