Norwegian physical therapists celebrate direct access for patients

Physical therapists in Norway have successfully established direct access to physiotherapy for patients across the country.

A limited form of direct access and self-referral has been in place in Norway since 2001, when patients required a referral from a doctor in order to claim a social security refund for physical therapy.

But as of 1 January 2018, patients can refer themselves to any physical therapist practising with a municipal operation agreement and claim the social security refund for their treatment.

“This is a historic moment for physiotherapists in Norway,” says Fred Hatlebrekke, President of the Norwegian Physiotherapists Association.

“When the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs prepared a white paper on municipal health services in 2014, we grasped the opportunity to argue for direct access. We did the same in meetings with the Minister of Health, and we have shown that direct access is a patient-friendly reform.”

A growing body of evidence supports the clinical and cost-effectiveness of direct access to physical therapy. Direct access is currently available in more than 40 countries including Australia, Brazil, South Africa, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.

“Direct access and self-referral is part of a global movement recognising autonomy for physical therapists,” says WCPT President Emma Stokes.

“Direct access to physical therapy in Norway is a further recognition of the many benefits to patients, physical therapists and health professionals that flow from this change.”

While direct access including the social security refund came into effect for manual therapists in 2006, full direct access to physical therapy has been an important goal in Norway for many years.

Officials have been making the case in meetings at the Norwegian Parliament (Storting). After the submission of the white paper in 2015, the proposition for direct access was approved in June 2017.

WCPT encourages all member organisations to advocate for direct access and self-referral, following the approval and adoption of the policy on direct access at the 17th General Meeting of WCPT in June 2011.

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