What is the role of Allied Health Professions in the development of integrated care?

posted 22 October 2019 in category Integration PCNs Dental Care Pharmacy

Allied Health Professions (AHPs) are the third largest professional cohort in the NHS, consisting of 14 different professions (shown below) and are a critical enabler to achieving Integrated Care Systems (ICSs), as also discussed in this guide. At PPL, we have found evidence that a key building block of successful Integrated Care Systems is harnessing and scaling the collaborative approaches already established by these professionals that are core to the delivery of good quality health and care services. 

A key upcoming step to develop ICSs is just around the corner. From April 2020, funding will become available to implement First Contact Physiotherapists (FCPs) in Primary Care Networks (PCNs). The role of the FCP in a PCN will be primarily to support those people with musculoskeletal (MSK) needs and reduce the need for these patients to see their GP. It is estimated in the NHS that MSK conditions alone account for one in five GP appointments (Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, 2019), with the resulting referral to attend Physiotherapy taking up to 12 weeks. Introducing FCPs into PCNs is therefore an opportunity to ensure a more integrated service for the patient, with the patient receiving the right care at the right time by the right people; while also enabling capacity building in the primary care setting. 

PPL has encountered examples of systems which have already started harnessing the skills of Allied Health Professions to enhance their ICSs. For instance, iCare is a seven-day integrated community service incorporating admission avoidance, care management and community rehabilitation services operating at Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust. The service is provided by a team of physiotherapists, occupational therapists, speech and language therapists, nurses and health assistants. Once embedded, iCare has demonstrated how integrating locality teams, stratifying the population for risk and systematically implementing self-care and self-management, significantly improved the quality and experience of care for patients. 

The diverse role of AHPs in promoting ICSs is also reflected in other initiatives such as the set-up of an ‘Early Intervention Vehicle’ (EIV) in East and North Hertfordshire. The EIV’s aim is to ensure patients in the community who have had a fall are medically and socially assessed quickly and, where appropriate, avoid being taken to hospital. The EIV is staffed by clinically trained emergency care practitioners from the ambulance service and county council staff who are physiotherapists, social workers or occupational therapists. The result of this initiative meant that more than 70% of patients did not need to go to hospital. 

The diverse range of initiatives currently taking place shows us the impact and potential of every profession, including AHPs, to enable the success of ICSs. All too often, the medical model dictates how health and care are delivered on a day to day basis. One of the key enablers of ICSs lies in unlocking the potential of AHPs, who already have established successful models for providing integrated care. PPL are excited to work with AHPs on developing and shaping ICSs.   


To discuss this article, please contact PPL Senior Consultant Cait Berry