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First Contact Practitioner

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What is a First Contact Practitioner Physiotherapist?

First contact practitioner physiotherapists (FCPs) are advanced physiotherapists working within GP practices. FCPs have extensive skills in the assessment, diagnosis and management of musculoskeletal (MSK) conditions. Such as joint pain and stiffness, osteoarthritis, sciatica and muscular pain.

Why are First Contact Practitioner Physiotherapist's there?

It is estimated that musculoskeletal conditions account for around one in five GP appointments. FCPs can support GPs with their musculoskeletal caseload by seeing these patients instead of the GP, ensuring that they are seen by the right person in the right place at the right time. This will free up GP appointments for those who need them.

Where are First Contact Practitioner Physiotherapist's based?

FCPs are located within GP practices, and are part of the GP practice team. FCPs are as accessible as GPs and do not have waiting lists.

Patients contacting their GP practice's reception with a new musculoskeletal problem will be offered an appointment with the FCP on the same or next day for a telephone consultation. Face to face assessments may then be arranged if required.

What do First Contact Practitioner Physiotherapist's do?

A typical FCP appointment involves assessment, diagnosis and first-line treatment. As a person-centred service, most appointments include self-management advice, and discussions about physical activity and fitness for work.

Unlike self-referral, FCP Physiotherapy is not early access to a course of physiotherapy. Should the patient require further treatment, then the FCP can make a referral to the physiotherapists in the hospital who can provide in depth rehabilitation.

FCPs can order investigations if necessary or make referrals into secondary care services such as orthopedics and rheumatology, using the same pathways as GPs. Some FCPs can prescribe medication and some can also inject.

As FCPs are speaking to patients early within their pathway, most patients are able to be managed effectively with self-management. By providing patients with expert musculoskeletal assessment, advice and management from day one, this can prevent persistent pain/ chronic conditions.

If the FCP assesses a patient and they feel that the patient's symptoms are not caused by a musculoskeletal problem, they work closely with the GP's and primary care clinicians to ensure that the patient is booked in with an appropriate clinician, ensuring a seamless journey of care for the patient.

Will I be able to see a First Contact Practioner?

Our FCPs can see patients registered with GP practices in the following areas:

  • Bishop Auckland
  • Teesdale
  • Sedgefield
  • Easington District
  • Chester le Street
  • Derwentside


FCP Poster

'I cannot commend the clinic enough. It is marvellous we have this service at all and well done to you all.'

Patient, Coronary Heart Disease / Heart Failure Service, Shotley Bridge Community Hospital