Therapy Plan Could Provide Impetus For Action

Health Minister Dr Brian Gibbons will launch the therapy strategy for Wales on Thursday. Philippa Ford, Policy Officer for Wales of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, explains what therapists hope the strategy will achieve…

Physiotherapists in Wales have been waiting a long time for the publication of this strategy and many are concerned that it will not achieve the impact it needs because of the financial pressures faced by NHS trusts, Local Health Boards and local authorities.

Peter Finch, assistant director of employee relations and union services for the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, said, “There is no money attached to the launch of this strategy to help deliver the actions. Instead, commissioners and employers will be expected to develop services from within existing resources.”

However, despite the unfortunate timing – launching just when there is a financial squeeze – Mr Finch said the CSP is keen that the strategy should not end up on the shelf and become another missed opportunity.

The society is urging physiotherapy services to use it as an important tool, bringing actions to the attention of all those who have a say in how therapy services are commissioned and delivered. This will also mean ensuring patients and the public understand what’s in the strategy and how it will affect the care they receive.

The strategy highlights 10 key roles for therapy professionals in Wales and includes the emphasis on promoting health and well-being, including prevention and early intervention, and in acute, rehabilitation, and long-term care.

There are opportunities for physiotherapists to make a greater impact across a wide range of sectors, including education and in the public health arena.

What is needed, however, is an understanding of what therapists can do and what value they can bring. The CSP wants to make sure that all such possible job opportunities are realised. Workforce planning is one area where we really want to see the strategy succeeding.

At the moment we have a situation where physiotherapists are graduating but there are no jobs for them. There are currently 64 graduates without jobs who qualified in Wales in 2006.

Through the actions of this strategy we hope to see the Welsh Assembly Government working with the education sector and the service commissioners and providers across all sectors to ensure demand for physiotherapy services is assessed properly and capacity planned to meet future demands.”

The CSP believes that therapists are crucial to delivering the Welsh Assembly Government’s plans, including Designed for Life and Fulfilled Promises, Supportive Communities – the visions for both health and social services over the next 10 years.

These professionals are essential members of the teams that improve discharge from hospital, prevent hospital admission and assist people to live independently, managing their own health, social care and well-being needs.

This strategy needs to be a driver to develop more of these types of services.

The Compendium of Innovation in Therapy Services, which is being launched alongside the strategy, will hopefully be a tool to assist in sharing good practice models.

Trusts and LHBs will be able to see where a successful model is working elsewhere in Wales. Sharing such information will be a huge opportunity which must not be lost.

Ruth Crowder, Wales policy officer for the College of Occupational Therapists, said, “If well implemented, the strategy has the potential to make a major difference in the modernisation of health and social care services in Wales. It will affect occupational therapists working in the NHS, social services and in education. The College will expect the strategy to ensure the effective commissioning and delivery of occupational therapy across all services. The lack of money attached to the strategy must not be allowed to inhibit its implementation.

“Both Fulfilled Lives: Supportive Communities and Designed for Life emphasise supporting independence and the need for services, which enable people to achieve their maximum potential – that is the sole purpose and outcome of occupational therapy and it will be a key service in helping to deliver the Assembly’s vision.”