Less than 1% of physiotherapists will initially be able to become independent prescribers, according to the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP).
New regulations enabling physiotherapists to prescribe drugs for a range of conditions have been welcomed by the profession, but the transition will not be rapid.
Only the best-qualified physiotherapists are eligible for the relevant training, so initial take-up will be limited.
Health Minister Lord Howe announced in July that new regulations would enable physiotherapists and podiatrists who gained suitable qualifications to prescribe for their patients.
This change, expected to become law by April 2013, was widely praised as a step towards integrated care of conditions such as chronic pain, asthma, rheumatic disorders, injuries and diabetic foot ulcers.
Dr Helena Johnson, CSP Chair, said that being able to prescribe would “hugely improve” the care therapists could provide, giving patients “a more streamlined and efficient service”.
However, a CSP spokesperson has since noted that only around 200 of its 51,000 members – those already involved in supplementary prescribing – will immediately be in a position to undertake the training necessary for independent prescribing.
A limited further number will be eligible for the training, but will require funding from their employers.
High-profile sports physiotherapist Dave Roberts commented: “It is going to take some time for physiotherapists, GPs and patients alike to get used to the new prescribing landscape.”
There would be concern from patients and from GPs about working together, he said – but “education” of all stakeholders should “counteract any tension”.
A BMA spokesperson said the new prescribing regulations would need to be “explained clearly and thoroughly” to all healthcare professionals.