European agreement gives doctors and physios professional parity

A Europe-wide agreement has made physiotherapists and doctors equal partners in the delivery of quality healthcare, Sarah Bazin told Frontline.


Sarah Bazin: The ‘memorandum of understanding’ endorses the importance of promoting the objectives of doctors and physios

Ms Bazin, president of the European region of the World Confederation for Physical Therapies, signed the landmark agreement with the organisation for Europe’s doctors at a meeting in Brussels earlier this year.

She said: ‘This is about raising the profile of physiotherapy and supporting other professional bodies to work towards what we have achieved in the UK.’

The ‘memorandum of understanding’ commits the two professions to work in partnership to improve patients’ rights, healthcare delivery, and continued education and professional development.


Examples of the commitments in the agreement are

  • that treatment and health technologies should enshrine sound, independent evidence-based healthcare
  • the establishment of regulatory frameworks to support self-regulation and allow for professional autonomy, balanced by professional responsibility
  • education and training must be supported at all levels in line with the scientific, professional and technological progress
  • promoting high quality education and research to ensure best practice in prevention and the reduction of co-morbidities

Ms Bazin said physiotherapy in the UK had benefited from the CSP, one the Europe’s longest established physiotherapy bodies, and from leaders who have taken the profession forward. But many other European countries ‘have got a lot of work to do’.

A significant problem is that doctors in many European countries ‘are afraid of physiotherapists becoming more powerful’.

She explained: ‘If physios become the first point of contact it can be difficult because the doctors feel they should be prescribing the physiotherapy.

‘Another issue is that healthcare systems are set up with insurance companies that can’t sign off treatment unless the doctor has prescribed it.

‘Really this agreement is about saying “come on, this has got to stop”. We have got to push forward and there has to be trust that physiotherapists can work in a very positive way.

‘And actually, we know from across the world, that the sooner the patient sees the physiotherapist the less likely they are to develop chronic condition.’

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