Transforming Health needs greater focus on physiotherapy

27 February 2015

The South Australian Weatherill Government must invest in physiotherapy and other allied health if it intends to achieve its ambitious Transforming Health plan, the Australian Physiotherapy Association (APA) says.

The APA shared its submission to Government today. The APA's submission provides qualified support to plans to close standalone rehabilitation facilities – Repat and Hampstead and St Margaret’s Hospitals - but only if the Government increases current physiotherapy and other allied health resources to provide the rehabilitation at the planned new major acute hospital settings.

“At the moment, patients must wait until they are well enough to travel to these standalone rehabilitation facilities. We know this is suboptimal, with well accepted research showing that patient rehabilitation including physiotherapy should start as soon as possible after surgery to ensure the best treatment and recovery,” APA National President, Marcus Dripps said.

“So while we support patients having access to rehabilitation within the acute hospital setting as soon as possible after surgery or stroke as set out in the Transforming Health plans, the currently available physiotherapy workforce may not be enough to meet the targeted health and cost efficiency outcomes. Increasing current physiotherapy resources is vital to getting patients quickly out of hospital beds, returning home.”

The APA is also advocating for advanced and extended practice physiotherapist roles – including the ability to assess patients and prescribe medications in the reconfigured Emergency Departments as well as in elective surgery settings.

“We’re disappointed the Transforming Health plan had little focus on the skills and expertise of physiotherapists and other health practitioners in advanced and extended practice roles. Advanced scope physiotherapists working in the emergency department have been proven to be effective in reducing wait times and freeing up medical specialists to manage more serious life-threatening presentations,” Mr Dripps said.

There have been a number of trials showing the effectiveness of advanced and extended physiotherapy practice roles including a 2014 Health Workforce Australia (HWA) project that enabled expanded scopes of practice for qualified physiotherapists to triage musculoskeletal patients in emergency departments – such as providing limited prescribing of medication, providing local anaesthetic joint injections and referral and discharge of a patient.

Of the 14,512 patients physiotherapists treated in the HWA project, 93% were discharged within four hours, compared to less than 75% for similar patients seen by other practitioners. Patients also waited on average 30 minutes less, had shorter treatment time and their overall length of stay was reduced by 70 minutes. The trial also found patients reported good experiences and high levels of satisfaction with the care they received and the time it took to be seen by the physiotherapists. (i)

Other factors addressed in the APA’s Transforming Health submission included increasing community-based, out-patient and in-home physiotherapy services to ensure people who are well enough to leave hospital ongoing rehabilitation support; as well as for greater physiotherapy resources adopted in the planned Women’s and Children’s Hospital state-wide services.

The APA’s Transforming Health submission was presented to the Government of South Australia on 27 February 2015.

For further information, or to speak with an expert physiotherapist, please contact

Katie Croft - Australian Physiotherapy Association
P: (+61) 3 9092 0891 M (+61) 0413 780 545


1) Centre for Health Services Development, July 2014, HWA Expanded Scopes of Practice Program Evaluation: Physiotherapists in the Emergency Department Sub-Project Final Report , available at on 4 February 2015