Questions asked of a pathway - a pattern identified of repeatedly re-referred patients to musculoskeletal outpatient physiotherapy

Daniel Topley*, Iseult Wilson, Daniel P Kerr

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to conferencePosterpeer-review


Abstract • Objectives To investigate, describe and explain the occurrence and implications of patients repeatedly referred into musculoskeletal physiotherapy departments for the same or different diagnoses. • Methods Physiotherapists have reported anecdotally a pattern of patients repeatedly re-referred into musculoskeletal outpatient physiotherapy departments, many for the same diagnoses of unspecified chronic pain. Statistical outputs, or ‘exceptional reports’, from the relevant NHS Trust patient database were generated in order to examine these claims. An exhaustive systematic literature search and review was carried out within the Cochrane library, AMED, Embase, Medline and PubMed databases to identify current knowledge of the occurrence within the published literature. These findings precede and informed the design of a further, ongoing, mixed-methods investigation. • Results Statistical outputs from the Local Community Information Database (LCID) corroborated the problematic patterns raised by Trust physiotherapists. 13,274 patients had multiple referrals over 3 years (2012-2015), far surpassing expected rates even for chronic/degenerative conditions in an ageing population (Miller et al, 2005) and responsible for one third of all referrals over the period (approximately 30,000 of 90,000 referrals). A systematic search investigated current knowledge on the issue. 56 studies were retained by title after removing duplicates. Screening the results by abstract left 32 studies. Only 4 studies however directly addressed repeated re-referral, while 28 investigated initial referrals in relation to secondary-primary care interface quality, written referral content, and predictive/influential factors to referral. No study investigated repeated re-referrals in this setting. A variety of factors affect initial referral decisions, including diagnoses/severity, GP characteristics (Jorgensen & Olesen, 2008), professional interaction (Peters et al., 1994), setting (Freburger et al., 2003), and patient expectations (Ehrmann-Feldmann et al., 1996). There is no current comparison with repeat referrals, nor how patient status at time of previous discharge affects subsequent referral decisions. • Conclusions A significant gap in knowledge exists regarding populations documented as repeatedly re-referred for the same diagnoses into musculoskeletal physiotherapy, and comparison of initial to subsequent referrals. Further investigation is warranted in order to build up a comprehensive picture of the occurrence. Stakeholders, i.e. patients, physiotherapists, and referrers, ought to be included in this research, and their insights and perceptions ought to contribute to explaining the picture obtained.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2016
EventIrish Society of Chartered Physiotherapists: Annual Conference - , Ireland
Duration: 01 Oct 2016 → …


ConferenceIrish Society of Chartered Physiotherapists
Period01/10/2016 → …


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