New form launched for Physiotherapy Self Referral

The physio team.
The physio team.

A new physiotherapy self referral form has been launched by NHS Western Isles.

The Physiotherapy Self Referral Service was launched back in June 2013, with an online form being introduced in March 2015.

Over the past two years, more than 2,200 patients have self referred to the service (without having to see or be prompted by another healthcare practitioner), and feedback from patients who have used the service has been very positive. Self referral is now one of the biggest sources of referral into physiotherapy.

There is indisputable evidence that self referral to physiotherapy results in high levels of client satisfaction, better client outcomes and lower levels of work absence.

NHS Western Isles Physiotherapy Manager Sheila Nicolson explains: “Through self referral, patients can access our service directly, rather than going through their GP.

“The patient completes a short self-assessment questionnaire, which is reviewed by a physiotherapist and, depending on their clinical need, and if appropriate, an appointment is allocated accordingly, or patients will be placed on the appropriate waiting list.

“Self referral does not necessarily mean that you will be seen quicker by a physiotherapist, but it does put the patient in charge of their own referral.”

Mrs Nicolson continued: “Our new self referral form includes a section for the patient’s signature to ensure that it’s a true self referral service for patients that we are providing.

“Referrals cannot be made on a patient’s behalf without the patient signing the referral form.

“The self referral service has been found to provide easier access to physiotherapy, with patients in control of referring themselves, so that they are then more likely to be in control of their health outcomes following a physiotherapy attendance.”

Self referral forms are available to download from (click on ‘Self Referral’) and will continue to be available at the entrance to the Western Isles Hospital, Stornoway, with a secure red post box available to insert the referrals into once completed.

“Referral forms are also available from the Physiotherapy Department in Ospadal Uibhist agus Bharraigh and from GP Practices across the Western Isles.

“Members of the public can submit self referral forms at any time.

Mrs Nicolson added: “Once we receive the form (which we request to be filled out as fully and accurately as possible), we will triage the information and place the referral on the appropriate waiting list - if we think physiotherapy can help.

“Only referrals assessed to be clinically appropriate will be accepted.”

The self referral approach has a strong evidence base.

Pilots in Scotland and later in England found that self referral has a range of benefits for both patients and healthcare providers.

Self referral reduces the need for healthcare interventions such as x-rays and prescribing, and for referrals to orthopaedic specialists.

It also lowers rates of sickness absence, and motivates patients to manage their own health.

According to the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, self referral is popular with patients.

It is a patient-centred approach that increases ease of use, convenience, portability, patient influence, choice, engagement and involvement in care, and promotes self-management.

The pilots showed that people who self refer to physiotherapy take fewer days off work and are about half as likely to be off work for one month, compared with those referred to physiotherapy by a GP.