APA calls for bold reforms in primary care to unleash the potential of physiotherapy

Physiotherapist in a clinic treats an older patient by performing stretches

APA calls for bold reforms in primary care to unleash the potential of physiotherapy

Physiotherapist in a clinic treats an older patient by performing stretches

The Australian Physiotherapy Association (APA) has responded to the Unleashing the Potential of our Health Workforce (Scope of Practice Review) with a comprehensive submission. This submission outlines the urgent need for reforms that empower physiotherapists to play a pivotal role in reshaping Australia's primary care landscape.

The Scope of Practice Review, commissioned by the Federal Government, represents a significant step toward building a value-based healthcare system. The APA enthusiastically welcomes this initiative, seeing it as a critical driver of structural reform within primary care.

Physiotherapists have been identified as instrumental in bridging the gap between the potential for healthcare improvement and the existing funding and policy constraints in Australia. A recent Grattan Institute report underscores the importance of recognizing the full extent of physiotherapists' capabilities. It calls for the removal of regulatory barriers to unleash the potential of primary care workers, emphasizing the need for a profound understanding of the role of physiotherapy in modern healthcare.

The APA firmly believes that investing in the physiotherapy workforce is paramount to realising the Government's vision of strengthening Medicare and improving healthcare accessibility. Their proposed reforms advocate for affordable, universal access to high-quality healthcare, emphasising the importance of bringing physiotherapy to the forefront of primary care.

The complexity of the current healthcare system, including the federal-state separation, hinders the efficient delivery of care. A shift towards preventive care and timely interventions is critical to prevent costly medical procedures and surgeries that could be avoided through evidence-based, primary care interventions.

The APA's submission outlines several priority reforms for physiotherapy, including:

  • Funded First Contact Physiotherapy: Publicly funded access to physiotherapy in primary care to expedite the diagnosis and treatment of musculoskeletal conditions.
  • Physiotherapist Direct Referrals: The removal of structural barriers that hinder patients from accessing physiotherapy care and the establishment of MBS-subsidised referral pathways.
  • Physiotherapy in Medicare Urgent Care Clinics: Integrating physiotherapists into Medicare Urgent Care Clinics to alleviate GP workloads and ensure continuity of care.
  • Physiotherapy-Led Non-Operative Pathways: Utilising physiotherapy-led, non-operative pathways to reduce surgical wait-list times and enhance patient care.
  • Leveraging Advanced Practice Models: Expanding advanced practice physiotherapist roles in primary and community healthcare to meet unmet patient needs.

The APA's submission emphasises the urgency of these reforms, highlighting their potential to reduce healthcare costs, prevent unnecessary procedures, and enhance patient outcomes. Furthermore, the APA calls for allowing appropriately and highly qualified physiotherapists to autonomously prescribe medicines within their scope of practice, when it supports patient outcomes and service efficiency.

The APA's recommendations offer a clear path to a more efficient, cost-effective, and patient-centered primary care system. 

The APA urges the Taskforce to consider the significant body of evidence supporting these reforms, emphasising the potential for positive outcomes, and allowing physiotherapists to work at the full extent of their clinical practice, ensuring that Australians receive the right care, in the right place, at the right time, by the right provider.

The full submission is available here.


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