Transforming Australia’s health system to connect patients to the most clinically-appropriate and cost-effective health care, should be the major focus of the 2022 federal election.

The Australian Physiotherapy Association (APA) is calling on all political parties to commit to reforming primary care by encompassing physiotherapy - it’s what’s done overseas and Australians deserve to have the best health system in the world.

“The incoming government must make the bold, but vital, structural changes to Australia’s health system, which includes connecting patients to the most clinically appropriate and cost-effective health care,” APA National President Scott Willis said.

“Whoever takes office after the election must overhaul referral pathways and lift barriers to allow physiotherapists to directly refer patients and to fund imaging requests for patients.

“The single greatest impediment to care is costs. Physiotherapy provides a path to better health and wellbeing, but access is denied or inadequately funded for too many Australians. Like many others in the sector we’d like to see a renewed commitment to Medicare.

“Investment in public-funded physiotherapy will advance health, improve care, and increase value. Patients must have access to physiotherapists as part of a multidisciplinary team. Right now, they don’t.

“Nationally, we still await fundamental reform to provide a way forward to overcome the barriers to integrated multidisciplinary team-based care. Our health system fails to facilitate this essential care and patients are not funded to access physiotherapy services beyond current and very limited MBS chronic disease items.

“The APA’s 2022 Election Statement Physiotherapy: A Path to Better Care outlines solutions and new pathways to improve Australia’s health system and patient outcomes,” Mr Willis said

“Investment in public funded First Contact Physiotherapy will provide better and faster access to diagnosis, treatment and care of musculoskeletal pain and conditions. Strengthening access to diagnosis, treatment and care of musculoskeletal pain and conditions will provide significant benefits for the patient, whilst gains will also be found by expanding public physiotherapy to prevent and treat injury, and for persistent pain, chronic disease and long-COVID sufferers.

“We have set out reforms that make health care more accessible and affordable. Health reform isn’t cheap, and it means overcoming entrenched and outdates practices, but it’s essential if we want a world-leading health system. 

“Better outcomes for patients can be delivered by investing in sustained, integrated, team-based care encompassing high-value physiotherapy.

“The pandemic has shown us what reform at pace can look like. We’ve seen how achievable it is to remove the barriers to make true health system transformations when needed, as illustrated with the adoption and Medicare funding of telehealth. We must maintain this momentum to address the significant structural, governance, and funding inefficiencies that remain,” Mr Willis said.

The next government can strengthen and reform the health system by:

  1. Improving the patient pathway by addressing the structural barriers to reform
  2. Reforming primary health care through new public funded physiotherapy treatment pathways
  3. Shifting priorities to ensure those most in need are not waiting for care
  4. Implementing health care reform by acting on the many plans already in place
  5. Prioritise physiotherapy workforce planning to avoid a supply crisis
  6. Embed digital health into physiotherapy practice through targeted incentives.


Scott Willis is available for comment.


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