Objectives: To evaluate how physiotherapists are trained in and use clinically orientated gait assessment tools and instrumented gait analysis, and to identify if a need exists for a standardized methodology.
Setting: UK National Health Service.
Participants: Physiotherapists working with a variety of patient groups in 210 randomly selected Health Care Trusts.
Interventions: Not applicable.
Main outcome measures: Amount of gait assessment training, frequency of gait laboratory use, types and frequency of standardized gait assessment tools used, and expressed need for a gait assessment tool in clinical practice.
Results: A total of 1826 (43.5%) physiotherapists responded. Management of abnormal gait constituted a major aspect of physiotherapy practice; yet, there was no systematic use of standardized gait assessment tools. Gait video images were typically collected and analyzed without the use of standardized protocols. Only 23.1% of all respondents had a patient assessed in a gait laboratory. Clinicians indicated that they need training in gait assessment (66.4%) and desire guidance at a national level. Exactly 91.8% of physiotherapists requested a new gait assessment tool that can be used easily and quickly within a busy schedule without compromising reliability and validity.
Conclusions: Gait assessment plays a pivotal role for physiotherapists managing gait problems. The challenge for developers of gait assessment tools is to find a balance between the practicalities of use and scientific merit.