Federal Election

 

Physiotherapy is a critical and essential service for all Australians. It’s time to publicly fund it.

Investment in public funded physiotherapy will advance health, improve care, and increase value. In the 2022 Election Statement, the APA presents new advanced pathways that optimise the patient journey through referral, diagnostic and treatment pathways.

We offer a way forward in reorienting the health system towards primary care encompassing physiotherapy. We provide new ways to address social determinants and health inequity through new physiotherapy-led models to strengthen care and reduce disparities across priority populations. In making integration a reform reality, we provide a way forward towards sustained, integrated, team-based care encompassing high-value physiotherapy.

 

Our statement, Physiotherapy: A Path to Better Care, is structured in three parts

 

Our Solutions

Physiotherapy. Reform begins here.

Reform begins by removing the structural barriers.

Now is the time to prioritise the critical issues and structural changes that matter most. The path to better health involves lifting the current barriers to ensure the best use of physiotherapists within the Primary Health Care system. This includes connecting the patient to the most clinically appropriate and cost effective pathway. The solution lies in specialist referral and lifting barriers to allow physiotherapists to directly refer patients and to fund imaging requests for patients.

The APA calls for:

1.1 Reform of Australia’s referral system to specialist care to reflect need and the management of ongoing chronic health conditions. 

This requires:

1.1.1 A change to the Medicare Benefit Schedule (MBS) requirement for a GP referral to allow physiotherapists to directly refer to the most suitable medical practitioner.

1.1.2 The lifting of barriers to allow physiotherapists to refer for musculoskeletal imaging through the expansion of imaging items under Schedule 5, Subgroup 1, of the MBS.

Optimise the patient journey through new treatment pathways.

Stronger investment in physiotherapy will strengthen the Primary Health Care system and improve equity of access to essential care for all Australians. Investment in public funded First Contact Physiotherapy will provide better and faster access to diagnosis, treatment, and care of musculoskeletal pain and conditions. Significant gains will also be found by expanding public physiotherapy to prevent and treat injury, and for persistent pain, chronic disease and Long COVID sufferers.

The APA calls for:

2.1 The expansion of chronic disease and pain-related items of the MBS encompassing physiotherapy to strengthen multidisciplinary team-based care.

2.2 A funded pilot of the First Contact Physiotherapy (FCP) model to strengthen access to diagnosis, treatment, and care of MSK pain and conditions in primary care.

2.3 Investment in public funded physiotherapy to increase the coverage of preventive health services in Australia.

2.4 A leading role for physiotherapy in Long COVID pathway planning and delivery.

2.5 A funded pilot for physiotherapy-led rehabilitation for cancer care.

2.6 Public funded pre and post-natal physiotherapy care (6 sessions).

Expand physiotherapy funding for those most in need.

Physiotherapy provides a path to better health and wellbeing but for too many Australians access is denied or inadequately funded. The physiotherapy profession is a fundamental provider of high-quality, evidence-based care for ageing Australians, veterans and those living with disability. For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, physiotherapists are vital to improving health outcomes. Providing equitable access to care must also extend to rural Australians—only then can we address entrenched health disparities.

The APA calls for:

3.1 Investment in public funded physiotherapy to drive better care outcomes in aged care.

3.2 Honour the promise to all Australians with disability and properly fund the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) to meet its stated functions.

3.3 Fund a one-off fee increase for physiotherapists providing services to the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) card holders.

3.4 Reduce the barriers to accessing physiotherapy services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

3.5 Fund new physiotherapy-led models to improve access to rural services and ensure practices remain viable.

3.6 Implement the Mental Health and Suicide Prevention – Final Report recommendations.

We’ve got the plans, let’s get going.

Electoral cycles have delayed real reform for too long. We have many plans in place following a prolonged period of review. It’s time to adequately fund and implement them.

This work needs to being now:

  • Primary Health Care 10-Year Plan
  • National Preventive Health Strategy
  • National Obesity Prevention Strategy
  • Fifth National Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Plan
  • Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) Review

The APA calls for:

4.1 The establishment of a health ‘czar’ to coordinate the implementation and evaluation of the health reform plans.

 

Key enablers

We need a national workforce plan to avoid a supply crisis alongside strategies towards digitally driven innovations.

More focus is required to ensuring sustainable supply and distribution of the physiotherapy workforce that optimises access and addresses needs.

We need a national plan for the physiotherapy workforce to match current and future supply and demand. The impact of COVID-19 and unresolved gender disparity impact on our discipline needs national leadership to direct workforce planning and incentives for post-COVID recovery. Strengthening data and systems to undertake needs analysis is critical to this task and must be prioritised.

The APA calls for:

5.1 A National Allied Health Workforce Strategy encompassing needs assessment and targets for rural physiotherapy workforce growth.

5.2 Policy to financially incentivise physiotherapy into training and practices where they are needed most.

5.3 Funding for an advanced skill pathway to support physiotherapists to upskill to meet a need in their community.

We need strategies to unlock the potential of physiotherapy in driving digital innovations.

The physiotherapy workforce is key to ensuring digital health is adopted across the entire health care landscape. If we are to harness the full potential of digital health care in Australia, targeted investment is required to leverage digital health solutions across all patient pathways. This requires a broader funding commitment to test and trial system-wide solutions encompassing physiotherapy.

The APA calls for:

6.1 Embed digital health into physiotherapy practice through extending the Practice Incentives Program eHealth Incentive (ePIP).

6.2 Fund a physiotherapy-led pilot within primary care and the hospital system to support interoperability and streamline the patient journey.

 

New pathways

New pathway solutions to strengthen the patient journey

Option Paper 1 Public funded First Contact Physiotherapy

Option Paper 2 Exercise and Cancer

Option Paper 3 Falls Prevention