Seafarers Hospital Society Extends FREE Physiotherapy

Posted on Thursday 15th October 2015
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Working at sea is one of the most challenging jobs in the UK, and the time spent offshore means it can be a problem getting treatment for work-related injuries. In 2011 the Seafarers Hospital Society (SHS) launched an innovative scheme to promote physiotherapy to fishermen, working with NHS providers in some areas and funding private treatment in others. The scheme has recently been reviewed and from October 15th 2015 all working fishermen living in the UK will be eligible for free physiotherapy provided by Connect Physiotherapy and funded by the SHS.

Peter Coulson, SHS General Secretary, explained: “We tested a range of approaches as a pilot just over 4 years ago. We funded private physiotherapy for fishermen in Kilkeel and Newlyn, and worked with NHS providers in Brixham and Peterhead & Ayrshire to promote rapid access to NHS services. At the same time we launched a scheme for merchant ratings offering nationwide access to private physiotherapy advice and treatment, which was funded by SHS and provided by Connect.

We know there is a need for physiotherapy amongst fishermen and believe that the time is now right to extend the scheme. So, from the beginning of October we will be funding free physiotherapy for working fishermen living anywhere in the UK. We’ve created new leaflets and posters targeting all UK fishermen and will be distributing them widely.”

The physiotherapy service will be run by Connect Physiotherapy on behalf of the Seafarers Hospital Society. It’s available at times to suit individual requirements and in any location. All fishermen need to do is ring 0191 247 5000 and arrange to speak to a chartered physiotherapist who will advise on how best to manage their condition, provide appropriate exercises and arrange for any necessary treatment to be provided locally.

Ben Watling, Head of Corporate at Connect, said: “It is important that musculoskeletal problems are identified, understood and managed effectively. Fast access to physiotherapy can have a significant impact on the speed of recovery and prevent long term or recurrent problems. Our telephone advice line ‘PhysioLine’ supports early intervention and our UK wide network of physiotherapists are there to provide any necessary treatment for seafarers. We are pleased with the success of the pilot with merchant seafarers and welcome the opportunity to provide similar services to fishermen who may be suffering from aches, pains, strains and injuries, affecting their work, lifestyle, wellbeing and possibly livelihood”.

In Newlyn, the SHS will be retaining the services provided by Harbourside Physiotherapy clinic which has been funded to provide physiotherapy to local fishermen since 2007. This is an extremely effective local service that will continue to be available, so fishermen in Newlyn will still be supported by Harbourside but may use the Connect service if they wish.

Claire Stevenson of Harbourside commented: “Newlyn is the largest fishing port in England and we have been providing physiotherapy services to local fishermen for many years. We know only too well about the impact that injuries can have on fishermen and how important it is to get help quickly. We’re very grateful to the SHS for funding our service to fishermen and look forward to continuing to work together.”

SHS Health Development Manager, Georgina Robinson, said: “This service is a potential lifeline for fishermen, helping them get access to physiotherapy when they need it. The NHS provides rapid access self-referral services in some areas, but these NHS schemes are still relatively new and are not universally available. Our service is designed to complement the NHS, by targeting those with long-term conditions as well as those with acute problems, particularly in areas where rapid access self-referral is not available. And with our scheme fishermen get a service that’s fast, flexible, supportive and responsive to their needs.”

Most importantly, the SHS funded physiotherapy service has been welcomed by seafarers and feedback from patients has been extremely positive.

A local Kilkeel fisherman explained how physiotherapy had helped him: “It made a big difference to my quality of life. I had ongoing pain in my lower back which really bothered me while I was working. After a course of physiotherapy my pain disappeared and I am now able to work pain-free. I would highly recommend physiotherapy for other fishermen with back pain and similar problems.”

SHS is working with the Fishermen’s Mission to publicise the scheme in fishing communities throughout the UK. Commodore David Dickens, Chief Executive of the Mission, said: “We are delighted to hear that the scheme has been extended and will do everything we can to support the initiative.”

It’s fast and it’s free.

Physioline open Monday to Thursday 8.30am – 8pm, Friday 8.30am – 4pm, Saturday 9am – Noon

For more information call 0191 247 5000