Allied health prescribing: perceptions of healthcare teams

Mrs Karen Bettenay1, Professor Lisa  Nissen1, Mrs Liza-Jane McBride2, Mrs Julie Hulcombe1

1Queensland University of Technology, Faculty of Health, Brisbane, Australia, 2Allied Health Professions’ Office of Queensland, Clinical Excellence Queensland, Department of Health, Herston, Australia


The extension of prescribing rights is an important issue in health workforce reform in Australia. Extension of allied health scope of practice to include prescribing is a practical response to increasing demands on the healthcare system. This study explores healthcare teams’ perceptions of allied health prescribing initiatives implemented across Queensland Health.


A two-stage process was used to evaluate the perceptions of healthcare staff working with physiotherapist, pharmacist and podiatrist prescribers. An online survey was administered 6-12 months post implementation of prescribing initiatives, followed by semi-structured interviews with a purposive sample of survey respondents.


Ninety respondents completed the survey across three professional groups: medical (36%), nursing (32%) and allied health (32%). Interviews were conducted with 17 healthcare team members.

Ninety-one percent of survey respondents agreed they had a good understanding of the prescribing role. Ninety percent had a good understanding of which patients were suitable for management by the allied health prescriber and 84% had a good understanding of the allied health prescriber’s scope of practice.

Ninety-six percent of respondents agreed the allied health prescriber has the skills and knowledge to prescribe.

Eighty-seven percent agreed the role improved patient access to care and 92% agreed the role made the healthcare team more effective.

Analysis of qualitative data highlighted additional benefits of the prescribing role including reduced prescription error, improved efficiency and increased practitioner autonomy. Interview participants were confident safety and quality could be ensured and were receptive towards expansion of allied health prescribing.

Occasional concerns were raised regarding supervision, deskilling of doctors and the potential to prescribe outside scope of practice.


Results indicate healthcare teams have a good understanding and are supportive of allied health prescribing roles. Healthcare team engagement and education are crucial to allay any concerns regarding allied health prescribing.


Karen Bettenay is a pharmacist with over 25 years’ experience and has a considerable background in pharmacist training and development within both health service and education sectors.

Karen worked as a project officer for the Society of Hospital Pharmacists of Australia in the development of a national pharmacist assessment tool. She has also co-authored reports on advanced and extended pharmacy practice and intern year assessment for the Australian Pharmacy Council.

She is currently a PhD candidate working in a research collaboration between Queensland University of Technology and the Allied Health Professions’ Office of Queensland, evaluating allied health prescribing initiatives.

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