Local physiotherapists say the Health and Social Care Board should reconsider its decision not to proceed with the roll out of physiotherapy self-referral across the North.
Practitioners said allowing patients to self-refer would ease pressure on local GPs.
They made the comments after the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP) said the decision means Northern Ireland remains the only part of the United Kingdom where all patients must first see a GP, placing greater strain on already under-pressure primary care services.
Mr. John Mc Namee, a CSP member for over 25 years, who as a private practitioner would not directly benefit from self-referrals, said it made sense to allow patients direct access to NHS physiotherapists.
“It would certainly take some of the pressure off local GPs if patients were allowed to self-refer,” said Mr. McAnee, who opened the Back Pain Clinic in Hawkin Street in 1999.
“There would be no losers. It would benefit everyone from patients, physiotherapists, GPs and the health service generally.”
This paper also understands the CSP locally has been actively engaging with the Western Local Commissioning Group (LCG), the British Medical Association to argue for the roll-out across the North. The CSP has written to all Assembly election candidates asking them to support the introduction of direct access to physiotherapy in Northern Ireland.
Tom Sullivan, Policy Manager for the CSP said: “The decision by the HSCB not to proceed with direct access to physiotherapy in Northern Ireland will result in poorer care for patients.
“This decision has been taken in the absence of a functioning Executive and on the back of an evaluation of the direct access physiotherapy pilot, which has been operating in the South Eastern Trust since June 2015 that demonstrated high levels of service user satisfaction, patient empowerment and better clinical outcomes.”