With knowledge comes responsibility


We have seen many times over the last year or so, of the attempt by federal and state funding schemes to influence the scope of physiotherapy practice. 

Usually this has been an attempt to reduce cost by ‘testing’ the physiotherapy profession.

Would we be strong enough to resist, to fight for our right to our National Laws’ definition of scope of practice, and continue to deliver contemporary care to our patients?

In most cases, the advocacy of the APA has been able to counter these cost cutting measures, in favour of retaining evidenced-based and contemporary care, but there is still significant work to be done.

The Board and management of the APA has at various times been petitioned to introduce and enforce higher minimum training requirements than those currently in place for areas of physiotherapy practice that are perceived to be high risk.

Our position thus far has been to make recommendations about desirable training and experience for particular areas of practice, though not to mandate these.

As this discussion has been ongoing for a number of years, it has naturally become a source of tension and disagreement among some of the parties involved.

And so, in late 2019, the APA Board led a process to further investigate the need to mandate higher levels of training for certain clinical areas and treatments.

The Board underwent a rigorous process to determine its position. A number of considerations were taken into account, and a wide range of stakeholders consulted including the Physiotherapy Board of Australia, the National Advisory Council of the APA, the APA’s insurance partner BMS, and individual communications from interested members.

From a regulatory perspective, physiotherapy remains a low-risk profession, despite changes and increase in scope in recent times.

The scope of practice of an individual physio is determined by the knowledge and expertise they have in a particular area. 

This is the cornerstone of our professional practice, and this self-assessment occurs every day of our professional lives.

Contrary to some views, a physiotherapist cannot claim to be able to practice the use of certain treatments or applications if they do not possess the appropriate skills. Data shows that physios are very adept at this self-regulation of their scope of practice. We actually do it really, really well.

And so, while the conversation will continue and we see no objective grounds or regulatory ability as the APA to impose additional training requirements for various treatments or modalities, we do have some clear responsibilities.

These are to ensure that our career pathway frameworks are informed by contemporary research and practice, but also importantly by the actuality of the risk as determined by our national regulator and our insurance partners.

We will continue to provide high-quality professional development and resources through our national groups and publications. And of course, we will continue to monitor this space and learn and evolve. And we will continue to consult broadly and thoroughly, as we have done in recent times.

Our scope of practice and National Law that oversees it, is a strength in our context and the envy of the world over. I thank the range of views, issues raised and risks presented by various members, as well as the firm and consistent advice provided by our National Advisory Council.

With my ongoing best wishes to you, your families and colleagues.


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