Physiotherapists and podiatrists in the UK will become the first in the world able to independently prescribe medication to their patients, in a move designed to speed up access to treatment and free up GPs' time.

To date, physiotherapists and podiatrists have only been able to prescribe certain medicines as supplementary prescribers, but only with authority from a doctor.

Now, a change in legislation means that, with appropriate training, they will be able to dish out medicines such as anti-inflammatories and painkillers without obtaining permission to do so.

The first batch of so-called 'advanced practitioners' are expected to have completed the necessary training course in the Summer of next year, and will only be able to prescribe medicines relevant to their role, the Department of Heath said.

“This change will not only benefit patients by making it more convenient to get treatment but it will also free up valuable GP time," noted Care and Support Minister, Norman Lamb, adding: "We are showing the world that the NHS is at the forefront of healthcare, paving the way for other countries". 

Designed to improve timely access to medicines, deliver care closer to home, enable self care and management of long-term conditions, and improve treatment outcomes, the idea ticks a number of boxes on the government health agenda.

'Landmark move'

Describing the move as a "landmark moment," Phil Gray, chief executive of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, said it will also help to remove bureaucracy and save the NHS money.

Bridget Turner, Director of Policy and Care Improvement for Diabetes UK, has also welcomed the move, as  it will help people with diabetes being treated by podiatrists in a community setting get quick access to care and treatment.

This, she says, is particularly important as foot ulcers and infections can deteriorate very quickly "and a matter of hours can be the difference between keeping a foot and losing a foot". 

"At the moment every year thousands of people with diabetes have to endure unnecessary amputations as the specialist care that they need to ensure quick treatment is not in place", she noted.