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Physiotherapists call on Minister to grant referrer status

By Mindo - 13th Mar 2019

The Irish Society of Chartered Physiotherapists (ISCP) has expressed “deep disappointment” that physiotherapists have not been added to the list of healthcare professionals entitled to refer patients for medical radiological/ionising radiation procedures in a recently-published statutory instrument (SI).

Physiotherapists are now in a regulated profession and can determine if an x-ray is required, but cannot refer under legislation, according to the ISCP. “The ISCP urges the Minister [for Health] to address the current exclusion of the physiotherapy profession in the statutory instrument in order to improve the patient pathway, patient satisfaction and achieve further streamlining of services and cost-effectiveness,” ISCP CEO Mr Ruaidhrí O’Connor told the Medical Independent (MI).

Physiotherapists have been working for many years in advanced practice in cardiorespiratory, neurology and musculoskeletal care. The ISCP said it received strong support for adding physiotherapists to the list of referrers from medical colleagues nationwide.

Correspondence seen by MI under Freedom of Information law shows that Irish Thoracic Society (ITS) President Dr Ross Morgan wrote to the Department of Health last year to express the ITS’s support for the proposal. “The ability of physiotherapists as part of their work in advanced practice in respiratory care to refer patients for x-ray would greatly enhance patient care and would be a cost-effective practice,” wrote Dr Morgan.

According to the ISCP, adding physiotherapists to the list of referrers would be consistent with Minister Simon Harris’s “statement in February 2018, when he supported the widening scope in his address at the Fórsa (formerly IMPACT) conference and spoke about moving away from the ‘traditional doctor/nurse-led model to a more inclusive model of health professions that is more responsive, effective and cost-efficient’”.

In January, the Minister signed the European Union (Basic Safety Standards for Protection Against Dangers Arising from Medical Exposure to Ionising Radiation) Regulations 2018, which transposed Council Directive 2013/59/Euratom (the Basic Safety Standards Directive).

The regulations designate those who may refer for radiological tests and carry them out, as well as other functions. Nurses, doctors, dentists and radiographers are designated in this regard.

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