What does advanced practice really mean?

Advanced practice in physical therapy could mean added value to patients and health service managers, delegates heard at a discussion panel at the WCPT Congress. But there is a lack of understanding by the public, and an international lack of consensus about what advanced practice really means.

Sue Greenhalgh is a consultant physical therapist for musculo- skeletal services in Bolton, the UK. Her team of non-medical prescribers was introduced to reduce orthopaedic surgery waiting times. There is now evidence that their interventions result in less surgery, more non-surgical management, and greater satisfaction from patients because of the time and care they receive.

But the speakers from Canada, Australia, Korea and the UK revealed that what constitutes advanced practice and “extended scope” in physical therapy varies greatly from country to country.

Session chair Jon Warren, ex-President of the New Zealand Society of Physiotherapists, said: “If you think we’re confused about the nomenclature, then I don’t know what the public are thinking.”

“When people are told they are going to see an extended scope practitioner, they think they are going to have something stuck down their throats.”

Delegates also discussed the potential greater use of assistants in the future, as physical therapists became more specialised.