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Open Access Highly Accessed Research

Non- medical prescribing in Australasia and the UK: the case of podiatry

Alan M Borthwick1*, Anthony J Short2*, Susan A Nancarrow3 and Rosalie Boyce4

Author Affiliations

1 School of Health Sciences, University of Southampton, Highfield, Southampton, UK

2 School of Public Health, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia

3 Centre for Health and Social Care Research, Faculty of Health and Wellbeing, Sheffield Hallam University, UK

4 School of Pharmacy, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia

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Journal of Foot and Ankle Research 2010, 3:1  doi:10.1186/1757-1146-3-1

Published: 5 January 2010

Abstract

Background

The last decade has witnessed a rapid transformation in the role boundaries of the allied health professions, enabled through the creation of new roles and the expansion of existing, traditional roles. A strategy of health care 'modernisation' has encompassed calls for the redrawing of professional boundaries and identities, linked with demands for greater workforce flexibility. Several tasks and roles previously within the exclusive domain of medicine have been delegated to, or assumed by, allied health professionals, as the workforce is reshaped to meet the challenges posed by changing demographic, social and political contexts. The prescribing of medicines by non-medically qualified healthcare professionals, and in particular the podiatry profession, reflects these changes.

Methods

Using a range of key primary documentary sources derived from published material in the public domain and unpublished material in private possession, this paper traces the development of contemporary UK and Australasian podiatric prescribing, access, supply and administration of medicines. Documentary sources include material from legislative, health policy, regulatory and professional bodies (including both State and Federal sources in Australia).

Results

Tracing a chronological, comparative, socio-historical account of the emergence and development of 'prescribing' in podiatry in both Australasia and the UK enables an analysis of the impact of health policy reforms on the use of, and access to, medicines by podiatrists. The advent of neo-liberal healthcare policies, coupled with demands for workforce flexibility and role transfer within a climate of demographic, economic and social change has enabled allied health professionals to undertake an expanding number of tasks involving the sale, supply, administration and prescription of medicines.

Conclusion

As a challenge to medical dominance, these changes, although driven by wider healthcare policy, have met with resistance. As anticipated in the theory of medical dominance, inter-professional jurisdictional disputes centred on the right to access, administer, supply and prescribe medicines act as obstacles to workforce change. Nevertheless, the broader policy agenda continues to ensure workforce redesign in which podiatry has assumed wider roles and responsibilities in prescribing.