Increased scope of practice for physiotherapists will reduce GP and Emergency Department queues

  • HSE and Department of Health “asking too much” of frontline staff, ISCP ‘gravely concerned’.
  • Allowing trained physiotherapists to order x-rays, prescribe medications such as  oxygen would reduce GP and ED queues
  • Community-based physiotherapists could triage issues


The Irish Society of Chartered Physiotherapists (ISCP) is calling for measures such as allowing  trained physiotherapists to order X-rays and prescribe medications, to help reduce  attendances at Emergency Departments and GP practices.

The national professional body representing over 3,000 Chartered Physiotherapists in Ireland says it is “gravely concerned” about the current crisis facing the healthcare sector in Ireland, both in hospital and the community, and has “ significant apprehension” over the challenges facing both patients and its members as they continue to strive to deliver the highest standards of care to the public.

Dr. Marie Ó Mir, ISCP Advanced Practice Officer said “Physiotherapy has been hit with similar recruitment and retention issues to the rest of the health workforce. The ISCP echoes the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO)  calling on the HSE and Department of Health to recognise that they are asking too much of their frontline staff. We are urging them to  introduce measures to increase staffing figures, whilst improving working conditions in hospitals and the community. Some immediate solutions are available to the Minister and Department of Health, through the introduction of  a simple legislation change that will further empower physiotherapists in their delivery of care to patients.”


Physiotherapists in the UK have been successfully working alongside GPs in the community, where they have enhanced care delivery because they are allowed  to order investigations and prescribe medicines, where appropriately trained. The ISCP  has been calling on the Minister for Health and the Department to introduce legislation whereby physiotherapists can order X-rays and prescribe medications including oxygen. Immediate amendment to the existing legislation would reduce attendances at Emergency Departments and GP practices, where 18-25% of attendances are for musculoskeletal issues. This would free-up our medical colleagues to see patients with prioritised or complex medical concerns and  lead to significant reduction  in  the numbers  of people on trollies”.


Cathine McLoughlin ISCP President said  “Physiotherapists have been at the coalface of care delivery throughout the pandemic. They work in Intensive Care Units ,establish Long-COVID clinics, provide rehabilitation to patients during, and post-COVID, or have been redeployed to test and trace or vaccinate. Many of us faced considerable upheaval to our regular workflow through additional duties, changes in rostered hours, or places of care delivery. We returned to lengthening waiting lists as we now try to prioritise healthcare provision in the constantly changing pandemic environment. The changes outline by Dr Ó Mir are straightforward but could make a dramatic difference on the frontline.”


The ISCP supports the public need for timely access to care, and we stand with our beleaguered medical, nursing and health and social care colleagues in over-run Emergency Departments nationally.

“Physiotherapists based in the community are a viable alternative for a first opinion for musculoskeletal and other healthcare issues. We’d like to see a system whereby your local physiotherapist could triage healthcare needs and provide the care needed or refer onwards as appropriate. We are calling on the Department and the HSE to act on our recommendations to support professionals and patients alike.”