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This paper describes three years' experience of running a domiciliary physiotherapy service based on general practice and financed by limited voluntary funds.
The need arose from the remoteness of, and lack of, open access to, hospital physiotherapy. This was particularly so for elderly patients who were often frail and mentally confused. In addition there were obvious advantages in properly instructing relatives in management and treatment, especially since many of the patients and their relatives expressed a desire for home treatment.
There was also a desire on the part of the general practitioners, nurses, and ancillary workers to develop further the teamwork in the health services of the four villages involved. Details of the constitution of the voluntary service and its financial arrangements are given.
The results of the service and the nature of its work are described. There were no difficulties experienced in selecting the correct patients for treatment and the type of equipment required was almost all normally available through the health authority nursing service. There was no great need for expensive or heavy equipment and no transport problems arose.
It was found that one hour of physiotherapist's time per 1,000 patients per week was adequate to cover all patients requiring short-term intensive therapy and to allow a small amount of palliative therapy in addition, although this had not been the original intention of the service.
The physiotherapist averaged about 40 hours work per month and under these conditions the travelling and costs averaged 1·54 miles and 83 pence per visit. With self-determined hours of work and flexible timing, these conditions proved ideal for a married physiotherapist with the responsibility of a young family. Expansion of the hours of work in this particular area would have led to wasteful visits devoted to palliative and placebo therapy; and extension of the service beyond the area defined, would have increased travelling time at the expense of working time. Thus there appear to be considerable advantages in keeping general-practice based domiciliary physiotherapy work on a part-time basis and looking for staff living close to the practice.