Advanced physiotherapists and podiatrists are set to become prescribers by 2014.
New legislation will enable these clinic-based practitioners to prescribe drugs such as painkillers, asthma inhalers, steroid creams and antibiotics.
The relevant professional associations have welcomed the changes, which will significantly bridge the gap between primary and outpatient care.
Physiotherapists and podiatrists in the UK will be the first worldwide to prescribe medicines for their patients.
People with neuromuscular and foot disorders are often shuttled back and forth between specialist practitioners and GPs.
The new arrangements promise to simplify patient pathways and accelerate treatment of conditions such as chronic pain, asthma, arthritis and diabetic ulcers.
“Physiotherapists and podiatrists play a vital role in ensuring patients receive integrated care that helps them recover after treatment or manage a long-term condition,” said Health Minister Lord Howe.
“By introducing these changes, we aim to make the best use of their skills and allow patients to benefit from a faster and more effective service.”
Dr Helena Johnson, chair of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, commented that being able to prescribe would “hugely improve” the care therapists could provide, giving patients “a more streamlined and efficient service”.
The College of Podiatry said the changes would particularly benefit patients with foot wounds, infections and diabetic ulcers, for whom rapid access to medication can prevent hospital admissions.
The changes are expected to become law in April 2013, and physiotherapists and podiatrists will be able to become prescribers by 2014.