First Contact Physiotherapy

What is First Contact Practitioner- Physiotherapist (FCP) service?

First Contact Practitioner/Physiotherapist is a new model evolving in UK. If you have recently suffered a joint, muscle or bone injury or have a chronic musculoskeletal (MSK) related conditions you can now speak to a FCP without having to see a GP first. FCPs are highly skilled and experienced Chartered Physiotherapists working within primary care with extensive expertise in the clinical assessment, diagnosis and management of MSK conditions.

How to book FCP appointments?

Patients with MSK related pain can be booked in to speak/see an FCP directly by a GP receptionist or by GP.

What to expect during FCPs appointments?

A typical FCP appointment involves assessment, diagnosis and first-line treatment. FCPs can also refer patients for a course of physiotherapy treatment, order investigations such as X-rays, blood tests or make referrals into secondary care services using the same pathways as GPs. As a person-centred service, most appointments include self-management advice, social prescribing, and discussions about physical activity and fitness for work. The FCP can also help patients with med fit note and can task the GP/Pharmacist to prescribe pain medications for MSK conditions if necessary without needing to book a separate appointment with GP in most of the cases.

What is inclusion and exclusion criteria of FCP appointments?

Inclusion:               Exclusion:
All soft tissue injuries, sprains, strains or sports injuries·       Acutely unwell
Arthritis – any joint·       Children under 16
Possible problems with muscles, ligaments, tendons or bone, eg tennis elbow, carpal tunnel syndrome, ankle sprains.·       Medical management of rheumatoid conditions
Spinal pain including lower back pain, mid-back pain and neck pain.·       Women’s health, antenatal and postnatal problems
Spinal-related pain in arms or legs, including nerve symptoms, eg pins and needles or numbness.·       House-bound patients
Changes to walking·       Medication reviews
Post-orthopaedic surgery·       Neurological and respiratory conditions
 ·       Headaches
 ·       Acute mental health crises
 ·       Patients who do not want to see a FCP

What is the difference between FCP and self-referral physiotherapy services?

Typically, self-referral services are accessed by patients who know they need to see a Physiotherapist. As most FCP appointments are booked through the general practice’s reception, FCPs see many patients who had not considered seeing a Physiotherapist in the first instance. Also, unlike self-referral or direct access, FCP is not (early access to) a course of Physiotherapy. Should the patient require further treatment, then the FCP can make a referral.

Disclaimer: Information extracted from Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (2021) ‘FCP Services’. Available at: FCP services | The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (

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