Physiotherapists in the Southern Trust are among the first in Northern Ireland to write prescriptions for patients.
The new scheme is part of a regional pilot looking at new ways of prescribing, to help reduce waiting times for medication and free up GP appointments for those who need them most.
In the first phase, physiotherapists working with patients who have Lymphoedema, can prescribe medication or garments where appropriate, for example if the prescription is needed urgently or if the items are complex.
It is planned to extend the service in the new year, to include Orthopaedic ICATS and also Community Respiratory Physiotherapy, which could potentially support recovering Covid-19 patients when discharged from hospital.
Carmel Harney Assistant Director, for Allied Health Professions at the Southern Trust explains:
“With around one third of GP appointments relating to physiotherapy issues, there are huge benefits for the profession working more closely with primary care colleagues.
“We are delighted to work with GP colleagues to find ways how we can all work better together to improve the patient experience.
“We already have prescribing First Contact Physiotherapists, as part of Primary Care Multidisciplinary Teams, in a number of GP practices, helping with musculoskeletal problems like back, neck, joint pains or soft tissue injuries.
“The introduction of this new approach to prescribing, is another way that we can make the most of specialist physiotherapy expertise, helping to ensure that patients get the right care as early as possible while freeing up GP time.”
The physiotherapy prescribing pilot will run for six months in the Southern and South Eastern Health and Social Care Trusts before being reviewed regionally by the Health and Social Care Board.
Andrea Linton, Pharmacy and Medicines Management Co-ordinator, Health and Social Care Board said:
“The aim of the pilot is to help improve access to medicines, reduce duplication of roles between different health and social care professionals and use the skills and experience of a wider range of prescribers. Over the next few months, we will be testing the effectiveness of the programme and identifying the benefits to patients.”
Patients with Lymphoedema should speak to their specialist physiotherapist to find out more.