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Patient view of the advanced practitioner (AP) role in primary care: A realist-informed synthesis

Morris, Leah; Moule, Pam; Pearson, Jennifer; Foster, Dave; Walsh, Nicola

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Leah Morris

Pam Moule

Jen Pearson
Senior Lecturer in Physiotherapy (MSK and LTC)

Dave Foster

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Nicola Walsh
Professor in Knowledge Mobilisation & Muscul


Background: Approximately 30% of general practitioner consultations are due to musculoskeletal disorders (MSKDs). Physiotherapists are trained to assess, diagnose and treat a range of MSKDs, and could provide the first point of contact for primary care patients. There is limited evidence on whether this role is acceptable to patients; however, previous research has explored advanced practitioner (AP) roles in primary care, which could inform this new initiative. Aims: This study used realist synthesis to explore factors that influence patient acceptability of AP roles in primary care. Materials& Methods: A realist synthesis was undertaken to identify initial programme theories regarding acceptability. Databases were searched to identify relevant literature. Identified studies were subject to inclusion and exclusion criteria, resulting in 38 studies included for synthesis. Theory-specific data extraction sheets were created and utilised. Data were analysed through identifying contexts, mechanisms and outcomes to formulate hypotheses. Hypotheses were validated through consultation with expert stakeholders. Results: Eight theory areas were identified that potentially impacted on patient acceptability of the role: patient's prior experience of condition management; patient's expectations of condition management; communication; continuity of the individual practitioner; practitioner's scope of practice; accessibility; professional hierarchy and promoting the role. Nineteen hypotheses on the AP role were developed around these theory areas. Discussion: Role acceptabiliy was influenced significantly by context and may change as the role develops, for instance, as waiting times change. Conclusion: Hypotheses will inform a subsequent realist evaluation exploring the physiotherapy AP role in primary care. Future research is needed to understand the acceptability of first contact physiotherapists delivering certain skills.

Journal Article Type Review
Acceptance Date Mar 1, 2021
Online Publication Date Mar 29, 2021
Publication Date Dec 1, 2021
Deposit Date Mar 29, 2021
Publicly Available Date Jan 6, 2022
Journal Musculoskeletal Care
Print ISSN 1478-2189
Electronic ISSN 1557-0681
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 19
Issue 4
Pages 462-472
Keywords Chiropractics; Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation; Rehabilitation; Rheumatology; Nursing (miscellaneous); Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
Public URL
Additional Information Received: 2020-12-21; Accepted: 2021-03-01; Published: 2021-03-29


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