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Changing Landscape for Remedial Massage Therapy

Since 2010 when the first market failure surrounding remedial massage therapy services became apparent in NSW, serious therapists have become more vigilant over the standards and criteria they practice in remedial massage clinics nationally. This event is in reference to the closure of access to newly graduated Remedial Massage Therapists for provider status with NSW Work Cover, the decision to close access in 2011 was based on the revelation that not all therapists in question were able to meet the authority’s criteria of recording the outcomes of treatment protocols and maintaining patient records in accord with the authority’s medico-legal risks and responsibilities.

This rebuttal of new therapists was based on the evidence gleaned under audit primarily within the Sydney metropolitan region. However, the outcome affected all new therapists from all training providers and professional associations within the state of NSW. The results of random audits demonstrated that many therapists were not recording treatment plans or outcomes of treatment as well as other records kept in foreign languages was not consistent with Australian legislative requirements.

In 2013 the Office of the Australian Chief Medical Officer was commissioned by the government of the day to appoint the Australian Natural Therapies Review Assessment Committee (NTRAC). Natural Medicine Associations were invited to nominate their representatives to participate on the committee. The remit of this committee was to review 31 natural medicine modalities for cost effectiveness, clinical efficacy, safety and quality. This process was overseen by the National Health Medical Research Council (NHMRC) administration team that appointed contract researchers across Australia to produce evidence, if it existed, to meet the criteria established by the NHMRC for consideration by the members of the NTRAC.

The recent news release from the Australian Health Minister’s office that it would be too costly to abolish any of the therapies under review was welcomed by the collective professional associations and subscribers to private health insurance ancillary services in Australia.  The decision was reached as a result of the estimated value to the Australian people of natural medicine practices for their preventative and rehabilitative health benefits. This outcome confirmed the 14 manual therapy modalities on the list of 31 were vindicated in relation to the criteria and standards set by the NHMRC.

This is great news for manual therapists in Australia at all levels of training and practice and reinforces the role the professional associations play in protecting the right to practice of all eligible members. The rebates for remedial massage services will continue as a result of this decision and we can look forward to the continued support of the Australian Government when providing clinically efficient, cost effective, safe and high quality remedial massage services to the Australian public.

Jim Olds

Australia's principal supplier of massage equipment & accessories

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