The first ever professional standards for physiotherapists include clear guidelines on sexual boundaries, advertising and treating friends.

Janice Mueller, the chair of the Physiotherapy Board, said a significant increase in complaints in recent years – though small relative to the number of physiotherapists – had shown the need for the clear and comprehensive set of standards released on May 5.

In 2016-17 the board received 58 complaints about physiotherapists ­– up on just 24 the previous year.  The same year there was also 15 physiotherapists referred to the board’s professional conduct committee – predominantly because of ACC fraud/false claims and sexual/professional boundary allegations – prompting the board to develop standards on sexual boundaries, informed consent and treatment of friends and family as part of the new 14 Physiotherapy Standards.

In recent years sexual boundary complaints were also upheld against a male physiotherapist by the Health & Disability Commissioner and a female physiotherapist by the Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal.

Muller said it was confident that the standards – developed in consultation with the profession and other health regulators – provide a “strong set of minimum standards” to help guide professionals and provide the public with “concrete expectations of quality of care”.

She said the standards were the last step of a five year project to modernise the professional and practice framework for physiotherapy.  The new standards have been packaged into a Physiotherapy Standards Framework that also includes the updated Aotearoa New Zealand Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct (developed with Physiotherapy New Zealand) and the Physiotherapy practitioner thresholds of Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand (2015) developed with the board’s Australian counterpart.

The Framework’s new sexual and emotional boundaries standard states clearly that the “Physiotherapy Board of New Zealand (Board) does not tolerate any behaviour of a sexual nature between physiotherapists and patients”.  It adds that “sexual behaviour in a professional context is almost always abuse” and that a sexual relationship with a former patient was not recommended. Particularly as a person can be still considered a current patient depending on the nature and length of professional relationship, the degree of dependency and the level of personal disclosure that occurred.

“It is vital to the future and credibility of the profession that we provide the public with safe and trustworthy care. The Standards we have released today will help do just that.”

The new Framework is being showcased in a series of roadshows being jointly held by Physiotherapy Board, Physiotherapy New Zealand, ACC, and the Health and Disability Commissioner over the next three months.  Along the with the framework the roadshow will also include ACC’s redesign of the Physiotherapy Services Contract. The first was held in Wellington on May 5.

More details at:

Roadshow Dates

Dunedin                              Saturday 19th May

Tauranga                             Saturday 16th June

Auckland                             Sunday 17th June

Christchurch                      Saturday 7th July


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