West Midlands NHS services showing how to ease the pressure on A&E, say physios

CSP calls for ‘diversion services’ and preventative measures to cut admissions.

Innovative health services in the West Midlands provide a lesson for the rest of the NHS in how to tackle the A&E crisis, the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP) says today. As hundreds of physiotherapists gather in Birmingham this weekend for their annual conference, the CSP says the region provides excellent examples of how to stop so many people going through A&E.

The College of Emergency Medicine (CEM) warned this week that patient safety is potentially at risk because of the strain on A&E staff, leading the CSP to call for a twin-track approach to tackle the blue light crisis. They believe that m ore triage services should be situated adjacent to A&E unit sto allow physiotherapists and other professionals to assess patients and provide either immediate treatment or an onward referral. This is already happening at Sandwell Hospital. In addition, the CEM have called for greater investment in community services, such as Birmingham’s falls prevention service, to ensure fewer people need to go to hospital in the first place and help them remain living independently at home.

The CSP’s chief executive, Phil Gray, said: “The Government’s approach to tackling the A&E crisis by providing limited additional funds is a sticking-plaster solution aimed at the short-term. Sandwell Hospital is showing there is a better way, by employing  physiotherapists and other health professionals to ease the pressure on A&E, save the NHS money and shorten waiting times. But more broadly, the A&E crisis is a symptom of a larger problem for the NHS as it faces unprecedented financial pressures.

“Too many people are going to A&E because appropriate services to treat them in the community – or prevent their condition from worsening in the first place – do not exist. So while there are clear changes that should be made to emergency care, the government also needs to look at the big picture and ensure there is adequate investment in community services. Birmingham’s falls prevention service is a brilliant example of how the preventative approach keeps people out of hospital and living independently at home.”

Birmingham City Council works with local health trusts, emergency services and voluntary organisations to provide a range of initiatives designed to stop people falling at home. The support includes physio-led exercise classes, home safey checks and measures to combat social isolation.

Cabinet Member for Health and Wellbeing, Cllr Steve Bedser, said: “A fall can have a hugely damaging impact on someone’s life, resulting in a loss of confidence and independence; isolation and vulnerability. But falls in many cases are avoidable and our work with health partners aims to reduce the numbers of older people suffering falls and serious injuries.

“Prevention is definitely the key here and our falls prevention service works with people over 50 in Birmingham who have fallen or are worried about falling.”

At Sandwell Hospital, patients arriving at A&E are categorised by their injury or condition as either a minor or a major. Physiotherapists working as emergency care practitioners are among the team that assess and treat the minors, helping to ensure patients are treated quickly and in the most appropriate manner.

Physiotherapy UK, the CSP’s annual conference, takes place at the International Convention Centre, Birmingham on Friday 11th and Saturday 12th October.