Physiotherapy profession losing its grip


APA Sports Physiotherapist and APA Musculoskeletal Physiotherapist Justin Wray says there is a push for exercise physiologists to be seen as the preferred providers of rehabilitation services.

I am writing to ask the question: what is the APA doing to boost the knowledge about our skills in exercise rehabilitation? In over 23 years of practising, I have noticed in the last two years the massive push from exercise physiologists to stake a claim in the rehabilitation market.

It has been an ever-increasing push that finally made me see red when I had work cover and GPs stating to me that patients need exercise not physiotherapy to rehabilitate, and they have advised the patient accordingly to go and see an exercise physiologist.

I was also incredibly surprised, after seeing a Facebook advertisement stating what physiotherapists can prescribe exercise for, to then see the exact same format advertising the same thing from exercise physiologists. The comments by the exercise physiologists regarding our advertising really does cement in my mind they believe we have no place in prescribing exercises, whether it be cardiac rehab classes or private practice.

It also makes me ask the next question: did the APA post that advertisement first or did the exercise physiology group? Who copied whom? I would love an answer to that.

How a patient with a sub-acute rotator cuff tear needs to see an exercise physiologist over a physiotherapist is beyond me.

While I feel I am treading on a minefield trying to explain and educate work cover and GPs about the new ‘trend’, I would love the APA to elaborate on what they have been doing to educate the public, insurance industry and GPs about our clinical expertise in exercise prescription and rehabilitation.


The APA has fostered relationships and promoted the value of physiotherapy. The APA has always worked to strengthen the position of physiotherapy in our community and in the health sector.

However, it is worth noting that many of our members work cohesively with exercise physiologists, often side-by-side at the same practice. Those members have been able to carve out their own value propositions organically, which is commendable.

As organisations, the APA and Exercise & Sports Science Australia sit side-by-side at the Allied Health Professions Australia table and we enjoy a collegial relationship.

That said, we understand that competition exists between our two professions, and our task remains to strengthen the position of physiotherapy. In the past three years, the APA has spent more resources than ever on communicating with consumers. You may have seen many examples of digital campaigns, outdoor advertising and media outreach to communicate the value, breadth and depth of physiotherapy. We continue this work.

We’ve also built a strong relationship with the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners and their members, so much so that we often work with them on advocacy initiatives that matter to our profession and serve to position it positively among GPs. Additionally, we have been exhibitors at the RACGP conference, showcasing physiotherapy, and have contributed physiotherapy information to a bank of clinical resources available through GP software.

Perhaps more than ever, in recent weeks through the COVID-19 crisis, this long-term positioning with the public, government and other stakeholders has held the profession in better stead than many others. We were among the first allied health professions to be eligible for telehealth funding through both the Medicare Benefits Schedule and private health insurance. Telehealth funding is still limited, and currently excludes exercise physiologists. 

Finally, with the rising burden of disease and an ageing population, demand for the expertise of physiotherapy will only increase. It is up to us as an organisation, and as individual practitioners within our own ecosystems, to position physiotherapy as an essential part of the Australian healthcare system, which does and always will include other professions.

Anja Nikolic, APA Chief Executive Officer


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