My old dad had a lot of back trouble, and when it “went”, he’d take to his bed lying on an old door under the mattress to keep his back in line.
It took about six weeks to get better. And no wonder.
It was exactly the wrong thing to do. We didn’t know then but the best thing for back pain is to stay on your feet and keep moving.
Oh, and have a spot of physio. Which is, at last, part of a new approach.
Patients with back pain, joint problems and other aches will have the right to bypass GPs and book appointments themselves with NHS physiotherapists.
The plan will also release GP appointments and save money after pilot schemes revealed that most patients were referred to a physio anyway.
Statistics show about one in seven GP appointments are for muscle and joint problems, with back pain up there as Britain’s leading cause of disability.
Many sufferers are sent to hospital, given scans or put on powerful medication.
Trials in 41 NHS surgeries found that letting patients book direct to see an advanced physio cut referrals to hospital by up to 20%, with most people not needing to see anyone else.
NHS England plans to expand such schemes nationwide.
Not every practice will be required to have on-site physios, but they will be expected to work with neighbouring practices that do.
I’m greatly in favour of this expansion of physiotherapy. It’s underused and undervalued.
Stephen Powis, the medical director of NHS England, said: “More physios based in GP surgeries means people can get the treatment they need without waiting weeks to make what can be a long journey to hospital for a short appointment, and is a great example of how the NHS long-term plan will increasingly deliver more care closer to home over the coming years.”
Karen Middleton, the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy’s chief executive, said: “The most important thing for patients is to see the right person at the right time, and placing physiotherapists in GP surgeries allows them to do just that.
“It speeds up access to the expertise they need, while reducing the likelihood of them having to attend further unnecessary appointments or undergoing tests they don’t require.”
Helen Stokes-Lampard, chairwoman of the Royal College of GPs, warned that physiotherapists “must not be seen as a substitute for GPs” but argued that the system could help overworked family doctors.
She said: “This scheme has shown that having them working in GP practices is beneficial for both patients and general practice, and cost-effective for the NHS, and we welcome the further expansion of this initiative.”