Legislation allowing physiotherapists and podiatrists to prescribe medication to patients takes effect today. Until now they have had to refer patients to a GP or hospital doctor with prescribing authority.

Those seeking the new prescribing powers will have to undergo training and will be limited to medications of relevance to their field. The Government promotes the change as reducing the burden on GPs and hospitals in order to streamline healthcare but the move raises questions of patient safety.

Penningtons' clinical negligence team has experience of patient complaints arising from extending clinical services from fully trained doctors and nurses to other practitioners.

Podiatric surgery is a good example of this, where patients often assume the podiatric surgeon is a qualified doctor who has had the same training as a hospital surgeon. In fact many podiatric surgeons are not registered medical practitioners. They do need to satisfy minimum thresholds of training and experience but there are numerous cases where there is a perception that this has been inadequate and has compromised patients.

Within the last few months, Penningtons settled a claim against a podiatric surgeon who performed surgery that never held any prospect of addressing the patient's condition. The podiatric surgeon's failure to understand the complex biomechanics of the foot and ankle, and lack of experience in treating the condition he faced, led to a very poor outcome for the client. As a result of this negligence, extensive remedial surgery under an orthopaedic surgeon was required but the client is nevertheless left with on-going problems for life.