How Malaysia Can Adopt The ‘First Contact’ Physiotherapy Model For An Ageing Population – A Neglected Physiotherapist

Malaysia can utilise physiotherapists in a first contact physiotherapy model, following the UK’s NHS, where the first contact practitioner (FCP) is an experienced physiotherapist who assesses, diagnoses, and recommends appropriate treatment or referral.

Malaysia is an ageing country; based on the statistics, Malaysia has only an estimated 2,759 physiotherapists in the Ministry of Health (MOH), which is 0.84 per 10,000 population, compared to Singapore’s 3.90 per 10,000 population. 

The emergency department in hospitals is congested, which was mentioned by health minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa, and this is one of the tricky things that MOH needs to settle. 

MOH can utilise the physio staff in a first contact physiotherapy model, following the United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS) system.

The role of an experienced physiotherapist with advanced skills, the first contact practitioner (FCP) assesses, diagnoses, and recommends appropriate treatment or referral to other health care services. They can:

  • Evaluate, diagnose and treat patients independently.
  • Order diagnostic tests.
  • Refer patients accordingly.

Benefits of the FCP:

  • Immediate access to physiotherapy.
  • Reduced GP workload.
  • Reduce health service costs.
  • Increased time allotted for consultation.
  • Increased patient satisfaction.
  • Improved primary health care quality.
  • Reduced sickness absences.

Implementing the FCP programme in Malaysia’s health care system can have significant benefits. 

With an aging population and limited health care workers, this model can provide immediate access to physiotherapy and reduce the workload of general practitioners (GPs). 

By empowering and recognising the qualifications of physiotherapists, MOH can improve the primary health care quality and increase patient satisfaction.

However, it is essential to ensure that the implementation of this programme is well-planned, with proper training and resources for the physiotherapists. 

The FCPs must have adequate support and guidance to ensure that they can diagnose and refer patients appropriately. Additionally, the diagnostic tests that FCPs order should be approved and reviewed by a medical doctor to avoid any misdiagnosis or inappropriate referrals.

Overall, the FCP model has proven successful in other countries, and its implementation in Malaysia can have significant benefits for the health care system and patients. 

By recognising and empowering the hardworking physiotherapy staff, MOH can improve the quality of health care services and ensure better health outcomes for all Malaysians.

CodeBlue is providing the author, a physiotherapist, anonymity because civil servants are prohibited from writing to the press.

  • This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of CodeBlue.

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