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The Australian Physiotherapy Association (APA) has supported calls by the Australian Medical Association (AMA) and the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (RACS) for all levels of Government to develop a national plan addressing the growing and increasingly critical backlog of elective surgeries.

The AMA and RACS highlighted new Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) data, showing Australians are now waiting longer than ever for essential surgery.

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In 2021, the APA released its landmark Economic Value of Physiotherapy report, which showed that physiotherapy is a valuable and cost-effective alternative to other more costly interventions, such as surgery for osteoarthritis, and as a complementary therapy for pre- and post-surgery interventions.

Physiotherapy results in quality of life improvements, such as reduced pain, burden of disease and longer life expectancy, increased mobility and avoided costs of healthcare. Avoided costs attributable to physiotherapy result in savings to multiple funding sources, including private insurers, State and Federal compensable schemes and State and Federal healthcare systems.

In an official statement, APA National President Scott Willis said that physiotherapy has a vital role in providing vital healthcare across a range of conditions and throughout the life cycle.

“The AMA and RACS rightly point out that many patients waiting for surgery are in pain and the delays in surgery can have devastating consequences,” Mr Willis said.

“Physiotherapy mitigates the risk of birth trauma, reduces the impacts of disability on community participation, contributes to the management of chronic diseases and emergency healthcare, prevents and rehabilitates workplace injuries to reduce the risks and ramifications of falls in aged and ageing populations.”

“For some people waiting in line for surgery, physiotherapy may offer valued interventions, especially for patients with osteoarthritis of the knee and hip and those using orthopaedic outpatient services.”

“Treatments by physiotherapists deliver both health and economic benefits. Interventions are clinically effective and deliver net economic benefits, with quality of life improvements exceeding treatment costs.”

“Physiotherapy has the power to enhance quality of life, improve health outcomes and offer best value for money in the allocation of scarce resources.”

“Australia’s current health funding systems does not always support good practice, provide best value for the health dollar or deliver best outcomes for patients, clients and consumers. Physiotherapy is currently undervalued and under-utilised and we have an important role to play in supporting the AMA and RACS in the care of patients on surgery waiting lists.”

“Physiotherapy is a critical and essential service for all Australians. It’s time to publicly fund it. Investment in public funded physiotherapy will advance health, improve care, and increase value,” Mr Willis said.

The Economic Value of Physiotherapy report highlights the benefits that physiotherapy delivers for people on orthopaedic waiting lists, including benefits in independent living, social relationships, and psychological wellbeing, supporting the calls made by the AMA and RACS.

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Charlotte Mitchell

Charlotte is a published journalist and editor, with 10 years of experience in developing high-quality content for national and international publications.

With an academic background in both science and communications, she specialises in medical and science writing. Charlotte is passionate about creating engaging, evidence-based content that equips the community with important information on issues around healthcare, medicine and research.

Over the years, she has partnered with organisations including the Medical Journal of Australia, Cancer Council NSW, Bupa, the Australasian Medical Publishing Company, Dementia Australia, MDA National, pharmaceutical companies, and state and federal government agencies, to produce high-impact news and clinical content  for different audiences.