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Low take-up of physio independent prescribers predicted

3 August 2012

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Less than 10% of physiotherapists in the UK are expected to upskill to become independent prescribers.

Last month, the Health Minister Lord Howe announced plans to allow advanced practice physiotherapists in the UK to independently prescribe medicines without the need for a GP authorising their decision.

Physiotherapists are now set to prescribe drugs for a range of illnesses such as respiratory diseases like asthma, neurological disorders, rheumatological conditions, women’s health issues as well as for chronic pain and mobility problems.

Dave Roberts, physiotherapist for cricketing legends Sir Ian Botham and Freddie Flintoff as well as Rugby World Cup winner Lawrence Dallaglio, said the changes in prescribing responsibilities will bring about concern from GPs and patients.

“Where there is any change, there will be concern,” he said.

“Any concerns patients have about physiotherapists prescribing them drugs should be allayed by the training the professionals will have to undergo.”

Roberts, however, said he can foresee tensions arising between physiotherapists and GPs who have not traditionally had a close working relationship.

“All that is needed to counteract any tension between GPs and physiotherapists as a result of the proposed plans is education on both sides,” he said.

“It is going to take some time for physiotherapists, GPs and patients alike to get used to the new prescribing landscape. But I’m sure there will be enough controls in place to make sure patient safety remains at the heart of everything we do.”

Responding to Roberts’ comment, a spokesperson from the British Medical Association said it is “important” the new prescribing procedures are “explained clearly and thoroughly” to healthcare professionals to ensure they are aware of the guidelines, training requirements and respective prescribing responsibilities.

Roberts predicts a slow take up of independent prescribing among physiotherapists as many “appear happy with what they are doing at the moment”.

A spokesperson for the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP) said it expects the take up of training for independent prescribing powers among physiotherapists to be similar to the number that currently have supplementary prescribing powers – around 200 out of 21,000 practising physiotherapists.