OBJECTIVE--To investigate whether accident and emergency (A&E) department based physiotherapy has any advantages over its traditional counterpart in providing treatment for soft tissue injuries. METHODS--Two A&E departments were compared: hospital A had a traditional physiotherapy service, while hospital B had A&E based physiotherapy. Groups of adult patients from these two hospitals were compared over a one month period. Data on injuries, number of physiotherapy treatment sessions, and outcome were recorded. RESULTS--There were 27 referrals for physiotherapy in hospital A during the study period (1.17% of attendances) and 111 referrals in hospital B (4.03%) (P < 0.001). The waiting time for physiotherapy was significantly less at hospital B (3 v 7 d, P < 0.001) despite a far greater number of patients referred. Non-referral at the hospital with the traditional service was due to a perceived long waiting time by the referring doctors. Patients with longer waiting times were found to be less likely to attend their first appointment, and this was therefore more common in the hospital with the traditional service (39.5% v 9.8%). CONCLUSIONS--An A&E based physiotherapy service results in a greater referral rate and a shortened time between referral and first treatment. Further research is needed to evaluate and compare long terms outcomes following treatment by both types of physiotherapy service.
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