Physiotherapists should be proactive in preparing themselves to participate in innovative models of health care, which are emerging from the healthcare workforce reforms in Australia. One challenging outcome of workforce change is physiotherapy (non-medical) prescribing (NMP), which is part of the extension of scope of physiotherapy practice. This paper summarises the current evidence base for Australian physiotherapists seeking to obtain prescribing rights. A targeted literature review was undertaken through EBSCO Host, Cochrane, Medline, SportsDiscus, Cinahl, Healthsource and Google.com using broad search terms to identify peer-reviewed and grey literature pertaining to NMP by physiotherapists, nationally and internationally. No critical appraisal was undertaken however literature was structured into the NHMRC hierarchy of evidence. Themes raised in the included literature were reported descriptively. There were six relevant peer-reviewed articles, of hierarchy levels III_3 and IV. There was however, comprehensive and recent grey literature to inform Australian physiotherapy NMP initiatives. Themes included the need for standard National action in relation to legislative and regulatory/registration issues, appropriate education, credentialing and supervisory requirements for physiotherapy prescribing.
Many lessons can be learnt from the literature, including the importance of planned, uniform National action (rather than piecemeal state-by-state initiatives). Essential elements include appropriate training and skills-based recognition within the discipline and the broader health team, and the need to overtly demonstrate effectiveness and safety. Regularly-evaluated service-delivery models which support NMP by physiotherapists are further required, to demonstrate efficiency, timeliness, patient centredness and equity.