Health Minister slammed by Chartered Physiotherapists for potentially placing public’s health at major risk
The Irish Society of Chartered Physiotherapists (ISCP) has expressed its deep anger and frustration at the Health Minister for putting public health at risk, and causing widespread public confusion and has directed its members not to register with the new physiotherapy register under CORU, the State health regulator, which is due to open tomorrow.
The ISCP had been seeking assurances from the Minister for Health, Simon Harris, that he intended to fully implement the decision taken by his predecessor, Leo Varadkar, in January 2016 to protect both titles of physiotherapist and physical therapist as a variant in the one register. However, an update from Minister Harris has caused huge alarm and has the potential to allow anyone who has called themselves a physical therapist or a physiotherapist, regardless of their qualification, to gain access to the register. This is deemed completely unacceptable and poses a huge risk to public safety. In addition this opens the State to potential huge legal liabilities and costs. Ireland is currently out of step with the rest of the world and is the only country where both titles are not protected for the one profession.
ISCP President Jill Long said “The ISCP has always supported statutory regulation for public protection. As the Competent Authority acting on behalf of the Minister for Health since 1996 the ISCP has ensured that the public is protected from those seeking to practice without the required qualifications and competence. We are furious that the Minister seems to have been swayed by other lobby groups. This alarming development has the potential to allow anyone who has called themselves a physical therapist or a physiotherapist, regardless of their qualification, to gain access to the Register. This is completely unacceptable and poses a huge risk to public safety. Accordingly we are directing our entire membership not to register with CORU until the Society is satisfied that this issue has been fully addressed. Furthermore we feel utterly betrayed as we have always cooperated fully with all Ministers for Health and as of today we are seeking legal advice regarding our options as we strongly believe that patient safety will be significantly compromised.”
In the past week Dr. Emma Stokes, President of the World Confederation for Physical Therapy (WCPT), which is the sole global voice for physiotherapy/physical therapy, representing 112 countries, has also criticised the Minister in the prestigious British Journal of Sports Medicine for the delay in amending his predecessor’s legislation to protect the titles and put the public at subsequent risk.
Dr. Stokes commented today: “As a former member of the board of the ISCP, the Minister for Health’s nominee to the Council of CORU and the Physiotherapists Registration Board until June 2014, and the President of WCPT, I will not be registering until the Minister ensures the public is protected by legislation that protects both the title of physiotherapy and physical therapy in the one register. Any situation other than this is quite simply an ongoing failure to protect the public. It is not a situation that I, nor indeed WCPT or the International Network of Physical Therapy Regulatory Authorities (INPTRA) support internationally, so I could not support it in my own country.”
Criticism of the delay has also come from the Physiotherapy education sector.All Heads of the Physiotherapy Academic Disciplines based in RCSI, UL, UCD and TCD, in a joint letter to the Minister, outlined the fact that Ireland is currently out of step with international norms in the absence of regulation and urged that the public be protected by not diluting the qualifications of entrants who should attain education to Level 8 or 9 in Bachelors or Masters degrees. The University group warned should the titles not be protected there is an ongoing risk to public safety.