Forgot Password

Sign In


  • Company Information

  • Billing Address

  • Are you primarily interested in advertising *

  • Do you want to recieve the HealthTimes Newsletter?

Physiotherapists have been identified as key contributors to improving Australia's outdated healthcare system in the new report, A new Medicare - strengthening general practice, which shows the potential for allied health professionals to improve primary care and increase access.

The report found that structural reform is required to change a system that actively discourages team-based care and rewards' speed' over 'need'.

Subscribe for FREE to the HealthTimes magazine

The Australian Physiotherapy Association says the emphasis on solutions to support greater levels of integration to meet the need of a changing population is heartening.

"The report contains strong evidence for integrated care models that include allied health services, yet successive health budgets have continued to deliver no or insignificant change from conventional primary care.

"The new Albanese Government sets us back on a reform path, in what now presents as an unprecedented opportunity to transform the health care system," APA President Scott Willis said.

The APA has put forward evidenced reform solutions, including most recently to the Strengthening Medicare Taskforce, to help drive improvements in health system design, address inequities, and improve efficiencies through advancing team-based care.

"Real reform requires greater investment in publicly funded physiotherapy and improved access to physiotherapists as first contact practitioners, including in urgent care clinics.

"We must ensure that those who need it the most can access care," Mr Willis said.

The Grattan Institute report found a 'very significant gap' between the contribution physiotherapists can make and "what funding and policy let them do in Australia" and recommended engaging an 'independent commission to remove regulatory barriers that stop primary care workers from safely using all of their skills'.

"Almost one in six GP visits are for a musculoskeletal issue, which evidence shows physiotherapists can provide expert diagnosis and treatment without requiring a GP referral, as is now the Funded First Contact Physiotherapy (FFCP) model in the UK," the report states.

"FFCP trials were initiated in the UK to find more innovative care models and reduce the demand on GPs. It's resulted in tens of thousands of patients avoiding hospital and costly surgery for health problems such as arthritis, back pain and muscle, bone and joint conditions just by seeing a physiotherapist."

In Australia, FFCP operates in a limited capacity within some emergency departments and, to some extent, within the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations.

"If FFCP already exists, and there is a very obvious need for adjustment to the current system, why are we still resisting better health outcomes and faster access to diagnosis and treatment?" Mr Willis said.

The report identifies the current Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) as a 'key barrier' to first contact care without a GP referral.

"While there is no limit on the number of GP visits a patient can have, access to MBS-funded allied health services is heavily restricted."

The report states that to be eligible, patients must have a chronic condition and complex care needs. Even then, these patients can have only five allied health services a year.

Federal Health Minister Mark Butler recently said that 'primary care is in its worst shape since Medicare began.'

"The cost-effectiveness of physiotherapy interventions is proven both in the literature and through cost-benefit analysis.

"To address the inequality and structural challenges outlined in the report, the government needs to fund new and innovative models of care, models that encompass physiotherapy.

"This report shows greater team-based care and funded first contact physiotherapy are a smart place to start," Mr Willis said.

Michael Dermansky, Senior Physiotherapist and Managing Director, MD Health, says it's about time Medicare benefits are directly accessible through physiotherapists.

"Physiotherapists have been trained as first-contact practitioners since 1976, which means that we have been qualified to assess and manage patients who 'walk off the street with an issue since then. 

"This will reduce the workload on GPs, waiting times for patients and improve outcomes because patients will receive the care they need for orthopaedic and musculoskeletal issues from practitioners who work with these problems all the time."


Thanks, you've subscribed!

Share this free subscription offer with your friends

Email to a Friend

  • Remaining Characters: 500

Haley Williams

Haley Williams has a Bachelor of Communication in Journalism and over a decade of experience in the media, marketing and communications industries.

She is a widely published journalist with a particular interest in writing magazine features on parenting, health, fitness, nutrition and education.

Before becoming a freelance journalist, Haley worked as a writer for NeoLife (a worldwide nutrition company), News Limited and APN News & Media.

Haley also has extensive experience as an SEO Content Writer and Digital Marketing Strategist.