Pathways to the future


The past four weeks have not slowed down for the APA in health policy, advocacy, government relations, external stakeholder engagement, member service delivery, COVID-19 responses to lockdowns and forging ahead with the APA’s strategic vision.

APA CEO Anja Nikolic and I met with Minister for Health and Aged Care Greg Hunt to discuss the Value of Physiotherapy report that the APA commissioned and released late last year.

He was most impressed and agreed that we had demonstrated the real value that physiotherapy provides to the health system.

He challenged us to think about our 10-year vision and our pathway to this vision.

For example, the Physiotherapy Research Foundation is currently assessing the UK first contact practitioner funding model and its potential for integration into the Australian health system.

Could this open up referral pathways to specialists, equal funding for imaging compared to other medical colleagues, a better consumer journey and possible prescribing?

Could our pathway highlight osteoarthritis prevention programs as alternatives to surgical interventions, physiotherapy-designed exercise programs for cancer sufferers or falls prevention for our older, most vulnerable people?

The policy team and the National Groups are being consulted before we return to the minister to discuss the existing research, where the gaps are and how the profession can address those gaps in terms of future research as we continue on that pathway to our vision for the future.

Anja and I also attended a think tank of industry leaders, which in addition to the APA included the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency, the Australian Physiotherapy Council and the Council of Physiotherapy Deans Australia and New Zealand.

It was an opportunity to alert each other to what we are all working on individually and to discover where our directions intersect.

This will start the conversation about how we can achieve what is best for the physiotherapy profession in the future.

What will the profession look like in 20 years’ time and beyond?

What are the barriers preventing us from working to our full scope of practice?

What enablers can we lobby to advance the profession?

What regulatory issues face us now and in the future?

What workforce issues need to be understood and addressed so that our practice and profession are sustainable in the long term?

Our next step is to continue the dialogue and formulate core goals to ensure that all the leaders within the physiotherapy profession work together for its betterment.

The APA was lucky to secure a space at the recent House Select Committee on Mental Health and Suicide Prevention inquiry, where I provided evidence of physiotherapists being part of the multidisciplinary team in this important space.

I emphasised that we cannot separate physical and mental health and that the two intersect and make significant impacts on each other.

We can offer consumers the notion that ‘every door is the right door’.

We can improve their journey and play a role in helping to meet their needs.

We are significant contributors to coordinated, multidisciplinary care arrangements in other areas, including professional sport, return to work, chronic pain management, acute and chronic disease management and exercise prescription.

We have been working with external stakeholders (such as Ian Hickie from the Brain and Mind Centre in Sydney and the Black Dog Institute) over the past few months, gaining support, strategies and resources that will ensure that members are equipped to continue to add value in this space.

Take care and stay safe.


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