Legal go-ahead for UK physiotherapists to prescribe independently

It has been legally confirmed that physiotherapists in the UK will be the first in the world to be able to independently prescribe medicines, without a doctor authorising their decision. 

After announcing the plan in October last year, the Health Minister for England signed into law the full independent prescribing rights for physiotherapists on 20th August. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will follow in the next few months. 

The move comes after 10 years of campaigning by the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP). Suitably trained, advanced practice physiotherapists will be able to prescribe any licensed medicine relevant to their particular scope of practice, and for a wide range of conditions such as asthma, neurological disorders, rheumatological conditions, women’s health problems and pain. This means that physiotherapists will have similar prescribing responsibilities to nurses and pharmacists in the UK.

Physiotherapists will not be able to independently prescribe immediately. They will have to undergo training before gaining approval to treat patients in this way, and colleges in the UK are now finalising their syllabuses for these courses.

Phil Gray, Chief Executive of the CSP, said: “This is another hallmark of a highly skilled, confident, autonomous and accountable independent profession delivering high standards of patient care. We should celebrate this milestone internationally. We hope that it will lead to other countries’ physiotherapists following in our footsteps.”  

WCPT supports professional autonomy in the profession, provided that individual physical therapists have sufficient knowledge and competence in their field of practice. “WCPT congratulates the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy on this important achievement,” said Brenda Myers, WCPT Secretary General.

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dear colleagues,

I was very disturbed to hear this news.
I wonder how this happened and would like to be informed about the process.
I presume the UK therapists will need a much stiffer insurance, now that they are taking so much more risk by prescribing medication.

Have been an allied health-professional for 46 years of which 36 as a physiotherapist.
Know enough about medication to know that you need at the very least, a medical education to be able to prescribe properly.

For me it is a big step in the wrong direction.

We have a wonderful profession, we are the people that can do so much with our hands..... how did this happen?

very worried colleague Esther de Ru

The process to secure legislative reform of UK prescribing laws was the result of a 4 year project involving scrutiny of the profession by Government, Regulators and the general public, all of whom were supportive of the change. The need for professions other than medicine to be able to safely prescribe medicines was first identified in the mid 1980’s. Currently, seven professions apart from medicine have prescribing rights in the UK. This latest change brings physiotherapy prescribing rights in line with nursing and pharmacy.

Physiotherapists are required to be indemnified for their work, and no extensions to the current provision of insurance has been necessary as prescribing is well accepted as being within the scope of UK physiotherapy practice, and no increased risk of patient harm has been evidenced.

In the UK, all prescribing professionals are required to demonstrate that they meet a common competence framework. Undergraduate physiotherapy training provides the foundations to understand the safe use of medicines in physiotherapy practice. Prescribing requires an additional annotation on the State Register for physiotherapists. To achieve this and become a practioner, physiotherapists must undergo a further University based, and Regulator approved, educational programme that covers pharmacology and medicines management in more detail, therefore prescribing physiotherapists are by definition expert practioners.

The scope of UK physiotherapy practice has increased in the past 20 years as have the educational expectations of physiotherapists. The physiotherapy profession in the UK is delighted that this positive change has occurred as it fits within the overall strategy of healthcare service design and delivery in the UK, and more importantly, it is safe for patients and can improve the management they receive.

Pip White BSc MSc MA(Law) MCSP
Professional Adviser- Medicines and Prescribing
The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy
London – UK

Hi, Esther de Ru. Partially, your right with your opinion, but, I think it's a welcome opportunity for us for the following reasons. First, patient will no longer spend extra payment for medical doctor just to have a medicine prescription which we could provide. Some doctors simply just prescribe medications without thoroughly evaluating a patient which make his/her condition worst. Second, the perception of the public or patient to us will be something special or highly regarded same as the medical doctors. Of course, the responsibilities and accountability will be more higher and stiffer. Of course, it's imperative that we should have enough knowledge in pharmacology to be in able to prescribe properly.In so, I am happy to hear that opportunity. Thanks.

I agree. I much rather have the ability to prescribe diagnostic tests such as Ultrasound, MRI, X-rays..

Much rather have the ability to prescribe diagnostic tests such as Ultrasound, X-ray and MRI... RK PT