Holding the future to account


I had the absolute pleasure in late 2021 of participating in La Trobe University student Shona Devlin’s look at the history of physiotherapy as part of her coursework.

We delved into the history of physiotherapy in Australia over the past 115 years, looking at where it began, how it evolved and some of its trends and fads, then speculated on what the future may look like and on the challenges and opportunities that may present to us over the next decade and beyond.

I think we all do this personally but it was a great way to reflect and plan for the future of physiotherapy for our next generation.

If I had to predict what will most advance and protect our profession in the future, I would say our full scope of practice; our ability to be fully funded as first contact practitioners; our essential service status; the advancement of the career pathway from student to specialist; our ability to demonstrate our economic, quality-of-life and consumer value; our continued influence on health funding; and the sustainability of our workforce.

The aged care sector is a classic example of the potential of our full scope of practice and of the funding required to deliver quality, safe and efficient care to our most vulnerable.

That is backed up by the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, whose final report was handed down early last year.

But still we have to fight over and over and lobby the government, providers and consumer groups to ensure that our full scope of practice is seen as effective and as cost-effective.

The Value of Physiotherapy in Australia report released last year is one of the most important pieces of work that the APA has commissioned as it forms a basis for our advocacy work with all departments and third-party funders.

The fully funded first contact practitioner PRF study takes an important look ahead at access to the health system and its future viability and efficiency.

We need to break down barriers of access, improve the consumer journey, limit reliance on imaging and medication, keep the consumer moving and allow physiotherapists to treat to full scope of practice.

We have provided an options paper to Minister for Health and Aged Care Greg Hunt at his request, outlining the research in the UK and the pathway and outcomes that may present in Australia.

COVID-19 has demonstrated that physiotherapy is essential to the health system.

Physiotherapy has prevented hospital admissions, reduced medication and imaging use, improved discharge planning and improved the quality of life for so many Australians in these unusual times.

The APA, the Australian College of Physiotherapists, engaged members and external stakeholders have worked extremely hard to improve physiotherapy career pathways and ensure the viability and long-term success of the profession.

We want to make sure that for students, graduates and physiotherapists throughout their careers, there are pathways in place that will fit everyone’s capabilities, desires and future visons, pathways to a quality profession in which they want to stay and advance.

The Board, the APA, engaged members and I are also committed to promoting our agenda on health funding to all levels of government and third-party funders to ensure that we have a sustainable future and that people have access to effective, efficient and timely physiotherapy throughout Australia.

Our policy strategy underpins this and, with a federal election approaching, I will be holding the government accountable on your behalf and demonstrating why they and the public should choose physiotherapy.

Take care, stay safe.


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