Patients will soon be able to self-refer to physiotherapists and other health professionals without first visiting their GP, according to the health secretary Alan Johnson.
The move will cover all allied health professionals who treat patients with feet and lower leg problems, as well as general physiotherapy services.
Mr Johnson said: 'Self-referral will help both vulnerable members of society and those with busy lives by providing quicker access without unnecessary hoop-jumping of going to see the doctor first.'
'I am giving the green light to physiotherapists, podiatrists and all Allied Health Professionals (AHPs) that they can accept patients who self refer. Services provided by AHPs play a vital part in building a society that's fair and inclusive,' he added.
Many NHS trusts have already developed self-referral schemes in a bid to free up GPs time so they can concentrate on more complex cases, but the government hopes that official backing will ensure self-referral becomes common across England.
Mr Johnson also announced that the government intended to collect new data on AHP and physiotherapy services in order to support their improvement. It will also introduce new quality measures to improve 'the overall standard' of the services for patients and the public.