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The Darzi Report and UK Physiotherapy

Lord Darzi is setting the direction of the NHS and of physiotherapy. Lord Darzi’s ground-breaking review of the NHS, High Quality Care For All, clearly points the way forward for the NHS and for physiotherapists in the public sector. The Under Secretary of State for Health is changing the NHS faster than any number of politicians before him. Perhaps due to the fact that he is a practising surgeon, perhaps due to the fact that he is a practical and clear-thinking man who understands both the day-to-day pressures and the true goals of the Health Service.

The Darzi report concentrates on the important aspects to clinicians and patients, quality and safety. Government targets up until now have focussed on waiting lists, time until surgery and numbers waiting for an operation. Close attention has been paid to these numbers, without a good idea of how well the delivery of healthcare is being performed.

Both Lord Darzi and the Healthcare Commission, soon to become the larger Care Quality Commission, are both clear about the new direction of travel. Treatment quality and patient safety are the new watchwords and the NHS’s performance will be measured against these indicators.

The key themes of the review are public health, fitness for work, shifting emphasis from secondary to primary care, more say for patients and clinicians and an concentration on evidence based treatment. These changes indicate a great opportunity for physiotherapy.

Physiotherapists have strong roles to play in preventing and treating injury, managing long term conditions, promoting independence, rehabilitating people with back pain, helping people back to work and tackling health issues such as obesity.

This is a fundamental cultural shift in the government’s approach to measuring the effectiveness of healthcare. A prominent health figure at a conference recently recounted how, 12 years ago, she had gone out to celebrate with the consultant and his team. The cause for celebration was the notable achievement of a three year waiting list for total hip replacement.

Large and measureable improvements have occurred in the NHS over the last 10 years. Lord Darzi’s report prepares us to take healthcare to the next level and physiotherapists must take advantage of the opportunities this allows.

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