Last updated: November 3, 2011
I read Fiona Reddan’s article When is a physio not a physio (Irish Times, Nov 1st) with interest though it may not have fully represented the similarities between the two leading bodies in the Irish muscular skeletal healthcare sector; physiotherapists and physical therapists.
The regulating body for physiotherapists in Ireland is the Irish Society of Chartered Physiotherapists (ISCP) and the regulator of physical therapists is the Irish Association of Physical Therapists (IAPT). Both are long-established voluntary organisations representing their respective members and both operate on a non-statutory basis. Currently, minimum entry requirements for both are an internationally recognised, 3-year, full-time degree. Both organisations stipulate a minimum number of CPD hours for ongoing membership. In each case the public can direct complaints to the respective governing bodies who are empowered to take appropriate disciplinary action. Private health insurers offer similar levels of cover for both approaches.
Some – a small number - of practitioners, who are not educated to degree level and consequently would not qualify for membership of either body, misrepresent themselves in the workplace as either ‘physiotherapists’ or ‘physical therapists’. For some years, physiotherapists have claimed to have a ‘large file’ of this kind of misrepresentation but presumably it does not involve members of the professional body – the IAPT - as no evidence to this effect has been produced. It is worth stating that physical therapist members of the IAPT have an impeccable record of service in the community, now stretching from the 80’s.
What differences there are revolve around the fact that physical therapists specialise in private practise whereupon their education and training is totally focused. They come to the profession as mature students to provide a patient-centred approach using their unique “hands-on healthcare” and as such have established themselves as worthy and effective healthcare providers. Only the largest representative organisation from each country can join the World Congress of Physical Therapists and in this case the honour falls to physiotherapists. A recognised degree is not mandatory for membership and member countries refuse to recognise each other.
Physical therapists work alongside and respect other healthcare professionals. For many years the training body for physical therapists in Ireland – the Institute of Physical Therapy, has offered to fund a joint programme under the auspices of the Department of Health and Children explaining the differences between both approaches. This would ensure that the public continues to have access to both physiotherapy and physical therapy, can choose either with knowledge and confidence and enjoy the benefits of competition in what is otherwise an often-sheltered environment.
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