UK physiotherapists first in the world to prescribe independently

Physiotherapists in the UK are to be given new responsibilities to independently prescribe medicines to their patients.

A government announcement in July confirmed that suitably trained, advanced practice physiotherapists in the UK will be the first in the world to be able to independently prescribe medicines without a doctor authorising their decision.

The move comes after 10 years of campaigning by the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy. 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.

The CSP believes the move will lead to major improvements in care, with patients being offered quicker access to medicines such as those for pain relief, leading to faster responses to physiotherapy and improvements in movement, performance and function.

Dr Helena Johnson, Chair of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, said: “The move to full independent prescribing responsibilities marks a landmark in healthcare provision. The added autonomy given to physiotherapists recognises the existing ability of physiotherapists to assess, diagnose and treat their patients to a high standard and acknowledges the clinical expertise and skill demanded of physiotherapists to provide quality healthcare.”

In order to qualify as an independent prescriber, physiotherapists will need to demonstrate a high level of expertise. Only those who work in an advanced practitioner role will be able to take on the new responsibilities. Those that are eligible will need to undergo additional training or a conversion course. It will be 2014 before the first physiotherapists are independently prescribing to patients.

WCPT has published a statement on practice specialisation, a policy statement on autonomy, and provides information on scope of practice