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P101 Understanding first contact physiotherapists experiences of remote consultations in primary care

Walsh, Nicola; Jones, Bethan E; Thomas, Rachel; Anchors, Zoe


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Nicola Walsh
Professor in Knowledge Mobilisation & Muscul

Bethan E Jones

Zoe Anchors


Background/Aims First Contact Physiotherapists (FCPs) assess, diagnose and manage patients presenting with musculoskeletal disorders in primary care, without the need for prior GP consultation. Prior to COVID-19 almost every consultation was conducted in-person. Since the pandemic, many consultations are now undertaken remotely, a trend that is set to continue in line with the ‘Digital first’ strategy which seeks to enhance patient access to appointments. This aim of this study was to explore FCP views of remote consultations and how this impacted their role satisfaction and wellbeing. Methods This mixed methods two phase study consisted of an online survey investigating distributed via professional networks and through social media. The phase one survey explored consultation methods; levels of training; challenges and benefits; and a stress appraisal. Data were analysed descriptively. Respondents were invited to take part in phase two which included a semi-structured interview to gain an in-depth understanding of FCPs lived experience of remote consultation ways of working. Transcripts were thematically analysed. Results The online survey received n = 109 responses from UK-based FCPs. Data revealed that despite the ‘Digital First’ push for continued remote consultations, the majority of FCPs (62%) used them for less than a quarter of their appointment slots. Whilst recognising that many patients found this format convenient, FCPs highlighted their own stress levels, citing poor efficacy, anxiety of misdiagnosis, feelings of isolation and increased administrative workload. Nearly two thirds (66%) of respondents had not received any training in how to conduct effective remote consultations. Follow-up interviews with n = 16 FCPs highlighted coping strategies including following up with an in-person consultation and directing patients to other community health and wellbeing resources. In areas of high socioeconomic deprivation and poor health literacy additional problems associated with communication difficulties, poor IT access and capability, and digital poverty were all cited. Conclusion Remote consultations may offer a convenient alternative for some patients. FCP responses suggest that the continued offer of remote consultation is decreasing now pandemic restrictions have been lifted, despite the push for continued digital working practices. The perceived lack of efficacy, and fear of missing important diagnostic information means that many FCPs are either returning to in-person consultation or following up with a second face-to-face assessment resulting in potential service inefficiencies. Additional challenges were identified in areas of high deprivation and low health literacy, and the value of this consultation format needs to be considered in this context. Future work should focus on the training and support needs of FCP staff who are engaging with remote working to ensure clinical effectiveness and staff wellbeing. Disclosure N. Walsh: Grants/research support; Walsh is funded by NIHR. B.E. Jones: None. R. Thomas: None. Z. Anchors: None.


Walsh, N., Jones, B. E., Thomas, R., & Anchors, Z. (2023). P101 Understanding first contact physiotherapists experiences of remote consultations in primary care. Rheumatology, 62(Supplement_2),

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Dec 9, 2022
Online Publication Date Apr 24, 2023
Publication Date Apr 24, 2023
Deposit Date May 16, 2023
Journal Rheumatology
Print ISSN 1462-0324
Electronic ISSN 1462-0332
Publisher Oxford University Press (OUP)
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 62
Issue Supplement_2
Keywords Pharmacology (medical), Rheumatology
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