Mid-Essex NHS physiotherapy cost-cutting proposals ‘a false economy’

Concern of plans to restrict physiotherapy services in Mid-Essex. Stock image.

Concern of plans to restrict physiotherapy services in Mid-Essex. Stock image. - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

A national health organisation has claimed proposed measures to cut costs of NHS services in Mid-Essex will be a “false economy”.

The Mid Essex Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) is consulting on plans to save £15.7million, with restrictions to GP physiotherapy services making a large proportion of the savings.

Three options have been outlined – which could also cut waiting times. The first, saving £1m, is for patients to go private, while a “telephone advice only” service would save £825,000, or limiting the service to one assessment and one follow-up would save £600,000.

However a YouGov survey of Essex residents commissioned by the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP) found 83% of people oppose the ‘go private’ plan – and just 3% support them.

The telephone only service was opposed by 64% of respondents with 55% opposed to the two appointment proposal.

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The survey also found if there was no physiotherapy service on the NHS three-fifths of people would contact or re-visit their GP if they suffered persistent pain, while 15% would go to A&E – a figure which rose to one-fifth for people aged over-60.

Professor Karen Middleton, chief executive of the CSP, said: “These results show the public do not want these proposals and back up our argument that making these cuts will prove to be a false economy.

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“If patients are forced to make return visits to their GP – or even attend A&E – the costs will be far greater than ensuring their condition is treated quickly and effectively by a physiotherapist.

“We have made the case to commissioners that changing the way the service operates could achieve the savings they need to make but without damaging patient care.

“This would involve initiatives like placing physiotherapists in GP surgeries, seeing patients as a first point of contact to speed up access to treatment and free up GP appointments.

“So there is an alternative we’ve been strongly urging the commissioners to consider and now we can see people in Essex are saying the same thing.”

The online survey questioned 504 Essex residents between December 8-14.

Other cost-cutting plans from the CCG include no longer providing hearing aids to those with mild hearing loss, female sterilisation of vasectomies, or gluten-free food on prescription.

A Mid Essex CCG spokesman said: “Mid-Essex CCG welcome the findings of the YouGov survey and will consider this alongside all of the feedback received during our consultation process.

“We have met with the CSP and local physiotherapists to discuss alternative ways to make savings which may allow us to protect services.

“We have yet to receive their proposals but very much hope the discussions will be followed up with productive action.”

The CCG is responsible for 389,000 patients in Braintree, Chelmsford and Maldon districts.

People can read the consultation document at bit.ly/1PgQiTK and comment by taking part in the consultation survey at www.surveymonkey.com/r/HXZYMJH, by posting their response to: Enable East CCG Consultation, Enable East, The Laurels, 2 Boxted Road, Colchester, Essex, CO4 5HG, or by calling Linda Williams on 01206 287501.

The closing date for all submissions is on Monday, December 28.

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