First Contact Practitioners (FCP's)

What are First Contact Practitioners (FCP)

  • First Contact Practitioners work in primary care general practice surgeries.
  • FCP’S allow patients contacting their GP surgery with musculoskeletal pain direct access to a specialist physiotherapist
  •  First Contact Practitioners are advanced musculoskeletal practitioners with extensive expertise
  • FCP’S provide quick clinical assessment, diagnosis, and individualised management of your condition
  • You may not need input for your GP and if needed a FCP can refer you onwards for tests or other specialist services to streamline pathways of care.
  • FCPs can be accessed directly by self-referral or reception staff may triage you to be booked in for an appointment.


What is new is that this role puts expertise to the front end of the MSK pathway at the start of the patient’s journey, at the place they are most likely to seek help first (Health Education England, NHS England and NHS Improvement, NHS Long Term Plan CSP, 2021). NHS England are looking to employ 26,000 additional roles in primary care by 2024.

Introduction to first contact physiotherapy -

What FCP can offer you -

Physiotherapy in general practice

In the UK, musculoskeletal (MSK) problems are the second largest cause of work sickness absence. It is a government priority to keep people in productive work as it is recognised that work can bring both mental and physical benefits and is a key determinant of health. The majority of MSK problems are managed in primary care accounting for approximately 14-25% of General Practitioner (GP) consultations and are the most common cause of repeat GP appointments. Research shows that physiotherapists are the most expert professional group regarding musculoskeletal issues with the exception of orthopaedic consultants. It is evidenced that the majority (85%) of MSK problems can be dealt with effectively by a physiotherapist without any need to see the GP. The First Contact Practitioner (FCP) role therefore has been introduced to streamline care for patients with MSK problems and to increase capacity within and improve access to primary care (Chartered Society of Physiotherapy). By making it easier for patients to access a physiotherapist, patients have quicker access to diagnosis, advice, exercises, and treatment, helping to manage conditions more effectively for an accelerated recovery.

Benefits of FCP’S in primary care –

  • Reduction in secondary care referrals
  • High rates of patient satisfaction
  • Cost effective, reducing primary care costs
  • Reduce pressure on GPs enabling them more time for complex medical cases
  • Reduction in the prescription of medication
  • Improved patient care pathways and immediate access to expertise

When to see your FCP-

Chartered society of physiotherapy promotional video -

You may be eligible for an appointment with a FCP for the following criteria – this is dependent on the scope of the FCP.

  • All soft tissue injuries, sprains, strains, or sports injuries
  • Arthritis – any joint
  • Possible problems with muscles, ligaments, tendons or bone, e.g., tennis elbow, carpal tunnel syndrome, ankle sprains
  • Spinal pain including lower back pain, mid-back pain and neck pain
  • Spinal-related pain in arms or legs, including nerve symptoms, e.g., pins and needles or numbness
  • Changes to walking
  • Post-orthopaedic surgery
  • Steroid injections (Scope of FCP in practise)


Exclusion criteria -

  • Patients that are acutely unwell
  • Children under 16
  • Medical management of rheumatological conditions
  • House-bound patients
  • Medication reviews for non-MSK conditions
  • Neurological and respiratory conditions
  • Headaches
  • Acute mental health crises


How to book an appointment

If your GP surgery has a first contact practitioner service, you can book an appointment directly with a physiotherapist via the receptionist, which means you won’t need to wait for a referral from a doctor.

What to expect from your FCP?

Your first contact practitioner will undertake an assessment via telephone or face to face consultation as appropriate. The FCP will provide you with a diagnosis of what is happening and expert advice on how best to manage your condition for example individualised exercises, education, activity modification and time scales for expected recovery. Depending on assessment and findings the FCP can refer to specialist services / investigations if necessary. Specialist services may include referrals into orthopaedics, physiotherapy, podiatry, rheumatology, and the pain clinic.

What surgeries are currently offering FCP physiotherapists -

Peverell Park surgery, West hoe Surgery, Friary house, Stirling Road surgery, Elm Surgery, Oakside surgery, Budshead medical practice, South way surgery, Church view surgery, Wembury surgery, Yealm medical centre, Dean cross surgery, Devonport surgery and St Neots surgery.

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