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Survey of the perceived professional, educational and personal needs of physiotherapists in primary care and community settings

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The emphasis of UK Government policy on primary-care-based services has led to more physiotherapists working in the community. The aims of the present study were to identify the perceived professional, educational and personal needs of community physiotherapists, and to determine good practice in meeting these needs. A survey of physiotherapists working in 15 National Health Service community trusts in the West Midlands was carried out in September 2000. The survey questionnaire was developed through focus groups and mailed to a random sample of 200 community physiotherapists. The response rate was 67%, and the median age group of the respondents was 21–30 years. The participants worked mainly in ‘urban but not inner city’ areas, most commonly in domiciliary (31%, n = 38) and general practitioner surgery/health centre (26%, n = 32) locations. Fifty-one per cent (n = 66) of respondents had no specific learning objectives for continuing professional development (CPD); those with such objectives were more positive as to their helpfulness than those without them (Mann–Whitney U-test z = 2.519, P = 0.012). Fifty-three per cent (n = 68) also often/very often found it problematic getting cover for their caseloads so that they could take part in CPD activities. Access to library resources and use of computers were problems, as were confidence in appraising literature and opportunities to discuss research evidence with colleagues. Fifty-nine per cent (n = 77) of respondents indicated that they often/very often felt stressed by the size of their caseloads. Colleague support included mentorship, peer review, journal clubs, clinical interest groups and multidisciplinary in-service training; respondents with experience of these resources expressed more positive attitudes to them than those without (Mann–Whitney U-test z = 2.871, P < 0.0005 for each). Forty-two per cent (n = 54) indicated that there were problems with safety issues. This study has identified needs that will have an impact on the ability of community physiotherapists to meet the demands of clinical governance. National Health Service management at all levels has a responsibility to facilitate the education, training and support of community physiotherapists.

Keywords: clinical governance; continuing professional development; physiotherapists; primary care

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: School of Health and Rehabilitation, Keele University, Keele, 2: Primary Care Musculoskeletal Research Centre, Keele University, Keele, 3: Walsall Community Health NHS Trust, Walsall and 4: School of Computing and Mathematics, Keele University, Keele, UK

Publication date: 2007-05-01

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