UK Physiotherapists Get Legal Green Light To Independently Prescribe

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.

Previous articles in Physiospot have discussed prescribing rights for our profession (here and here).  Now with the UK government has finally giving the legal rubber stamp for independent prescribing it brings essential legislation covering England into effect.  Similar secondary legislation is due to follow soon in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

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.  Phil Gray, CSP chief executive, said “It 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.”

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.

In relation to this topic you might be interested to read these documents from the WCPT: