Prue Galley’s efforts in Australia helped pave the way for UK physios to become autonomous practitioners. Sally Priestley met the pioneer after she was made a CSP fellow in November.
Prue Galley’s infectious zest for life is perfectly in keeping with her long career in, and enthusiastic championing of, the physiotherapy profession.
Though retired, the Australian physiotherapist and academic is widely known as a key figure in a campaign for autonomous practice for physiotherapists in the 1970s.
Her then controversial paper ‘Ethical principles and patient referral’ was presented to the Australian Physiotherapy Association (APA) conference in 1975.
She argued that physiotherapists should be accountable for their work and become independent from doctors.
The paper ruffled many feathers.
Ms Galley says: ‘I realised at that point that it was the physios who needed the most convincing.’ Despite this opposition, the paper paved the way for the introduction of ‘first contact’ practice for physiotherapists in Australia, and beyond.
Ms Galley was in London last November, where she received an honorary fellowship of the CSP at the society’s annual awards ceremony, something she describes as a ‘great shock and a great honour’.
But the 24-hour flight to the UK is one she makes regularly; she has plenty of physiotherapy friends to catch up with here.
‘I believe Australia and the UK have been the big pioneers in changing referral practices for physiotherapy,’ she says.
‘I was invited by the CSP to write the paper ‘Physiotherapists as first contact practitioners – new challenges and responsibilities in Australia’ that was published in Physiotherapy journal in 1977.
That really got the idea of first contact practice out there to a wider international audience.’
The campaign sprang from a group project involving three Australian physiotherapists – Ms Galley, Louise Van de Meen and Beverley Shanahan.
They had come together to look at the wording of the ethics underpinning physiotherapy, which stood at the time.
‘I researched all the relevant literature on this, and realised things had moved on.
So I started to make a noise about it. I was asked by Jan Benn to present a paper at the APA conference in 1975, and my message was that it was time for change.
‘But my other key message was that there was nothing to fear, because if we were still relevant then we would survive and grow.’
She followed up her successful campaign with seminal papers on patient self- referral, which influenced developments in the UK.
And commenting on the CSP’s achievement last year in gaining full independent prescribing rights for UK physios, Ms Galley said: ‘I think it’s brilliant, and it’s very much progress; 25 years ago I might have had a different view because we used to pride ourselves on our expertise in drugless medicine.
‘But things have moved on and I always come back to what is going to be effective and helpful to the patient.’
Asked about the future challenges for physiotherapy she says it’s time to think on an international scale.
‘We need to get out there and get physiotherapists in all countries educated and being able to work as first contact practitioners.
The ideal will be that we get to a stage where all people, no matter where they live, can get excellent physiotherapy.’ fl
Name: Prue Galley
1965: Bachelor of Physiotherapy, University of Queensland
1970 to retirement (2005): Lecturer, University of Queensland
1975: Delivers the paper ‘Ethical principles and patient referral’ at the Australian Physiotherapy Association national conference, Sydney. (In the following year, the Australian Physiotherapy Association passed the resolution that a member may act as a first contact practitioner)
1978: Master of Educational Studies, University of Queensland
2011: World Federation for Physical Therapy International Service Award (Practice)
2012: Honorary Fellow, CSP
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