Physiotherapy and medicines
The law varies from state to state and between territories. It’s also evolving all the time. You should always monitor the law as it applies to your practice and seek independent legal advice when appropriate.
Please note that this guidance note is intended to provide general information only about the current legislative regime. It should not be relied upon in place of legal advice. Every situation is different and the APA recommends that you obtain your own legal advice in relation to any issues that arise regarding medicines.
The use of medicines is a part of day-to-day practice for many physiotherapists. Many of our patients use medicines—scheduled medicines and those which are not scheduled.
We are often engaged in discussions about whether to start, continue or cease use of a medicine, as well as how to correctly use or administer medicine. We are often involved in monitoring the patient’s response to medicine and detecting adverse events.
Our pre-entry training and continuing professional development provide us with knowledge and skills that help us undertake these responsibilities safely.
We take this professional role seriously. It means more than reflecting on our clinical expertise; it means considering whether we have the necessary skills and knowledge in communication, collaboration, leadership, management and advocacy. It means reflecting on our ability to evaluate evidence and other resources, and considering the way that we demonstrate ethical practice, high personal standards of behaviour and a commitment to the profession.
The legislative environment around medicines continues to change. Recently, in response to requests from physiotherapists for readily available information about the differing laws across Australia, the APA developed some Guidance for physiotherapists on the use of Scheduled medicines in professional practice.
Other non-medical health professionals, such as optometrists, podiatrists and nurse practitioners, have varying levels of authority to prescribe medicines. We believe that the patients of physiotherapists would benefit greatly if physiotherapists could also prescribe within their scope of practice.
We have made a submission to the Physiotherapy Board of Australia, requesting an endorsement for autonomous prescribing.
In the light of changes in policy at the national level, we are designing a new concept for endorsement of autonomous prescribing by physiotherapists.
Guidance for physiotherapists
Physiotherapists need to understand the law around medicine management so they can practise safely, legally and with the community’s trust. The APA wants its members and other physiotherapists to understand this law, so we’ve created some information to guide you, along with case studies and other resources. Note that this guidance applies to the current law.
Our previous work
Since 2010, the APA has been working on various aspects of medicines management: keeping our members informed about the current environment, communicating to others that physiotherapists can add value to the medicines management environment.
In July 2015, we provided a Proposal for the endorsement of registered physiotherapists for autonomous prescribing.
As one component of this proposal, we commissioned Deloitte Access Economics to analyse the economic cost savings that physiotherapist prescribing could realise for government. The Report from Deloitte Access Economics suggests that the potential savings to government and the general public would be in excess of $9 million annually.
In October 2016, the Australian Health Minister’s Advisory Council (AHMAC) released Guidance for National Boards on applications to the Ministerial Council for the approval of endorsements in relation to scheduled medicines.
The Physiotherapy Board of Australia reported this in its Communique on 25 November 2016.
We are currently exploring:
- the need in the community for prescribing by physiotherapists and the settings where this service will be needed
- the benefits that would arise from the ability for physiotherapists to prescribe—for individuals and for the community
- the sorts of scheduled medicines that physiotherapists would need to prescribe
- any limits on the use of scheduled medicines that might need to be applied
- the ways we would anticipate that the scope of physiotherapy practice would change within each type of relevant setting, if the application were to be approved
- existing examples of prescribing that are relevant to meeting the community’s need
- the potential risks for patients and the ways of addressing these
- the acceptability of prescribing by physiotherapists among the people affected by a change in the authority of physiotherapists to prescribe
If you have comments you would like to make about these issues, please email the APA policy team.