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Prescribing powers for physiotherapists and podiatrists

WebMD UK Health News
Medically Reviewed by Dr Keith David Barnard

20th August 2013 - New legislation that comes into force today will allow physiotherapists and podiatrists in the UK to prescribe certain medication for their patients.

At present, patients that need a prescribed medication after visiting a physiotherapist or podiatrist have to make a visit to their GP to get a prescription - this is about to change. New legislation will allow trained physiotherapists and podiatrists to prescribe from a list of medications relevant to their field of expertise. This will make it less time-consuming and more convenient for patients to get prescriptions, and it will also have the added benefit of freeing up time for GPs.

It means that patients will be able to get their prescriptions - and receive the benefits prescribed medications provide - more quickly and with less hassle.

A physiotherapist is a specialist who helps treat disease, injury or deformity using physical methods such as exercise, massage and heat treatment. A podiatrist is a trained professional who specialises in treating the foot.

Full impact due in summer

Practitioners will have to complete a training course approved by the Health and Care Professions Council before being eligible to prescribe medication. Those trained to prescribe medication will be known as "advanced practitioners", and the first of these are expected to be practicing by summer 2014, after completing their training. The only medication they will be able to prescribe must be ones relevant to their role.

Good news for all

The Department of Health says around 15 million people currently have a long-term condition that requires care from a GP or at a hospital, and many of these will benefit from the new legislation.

Care and Support Minister Norman Lamb says these changes will enable the NHS to:

  • Improve timely access to medicines
  • Deliver care closer to home
  • Support people to remain in and return to work
  • Improve treatment results for patients receiving physiotherapy and podiatry

Physiotherapists will be able to prescribe medicines for pain and inflammation, helping many patients to respond more quickly to their treatment. Podiatrists treating patients with such conditions as diabetic foot ulcers and arthritis in the foot or ankle will be able to prescribe medication more promptly.

Bridget Turner, director of policy and care improvement for Diabetes UK, says in a statement: "We welcome today's announcement by the Government as it means that people with diabetes who are being treated by podiatrists working in footcare teams in a community setting will be able to get quick access to the care and treatment they need. This is really important because foot ulcers and infections can deteriorate very quickly and a matter of hours can be the difference between keeping a foot and losing a foot."

In a statement, Phil Gray, chief executive of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, says: "This is a landmark moment that will lead to patients receiving faster, more effective treatment for their condition. Physiotherapists being able to independently prescribe - for the first time anywhere in the world - will remove bureaucracy, free up time for doctors and save money for the NHS. But the most important impact of this new responsibility will be seen in the quality of care patients receive."

Joanna Brown, chief executive of the College of Podiatry, comments in a statement: "The new legislation will provide patients with more prompt and better access to treatment, helping to integrate care and reduce the pressure on other health care professionals."

Reviewed on August 20, 2013

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