Physiotherapists and podiatrists are to be able to prescribe their patients with medicines, the Department of Health (DH) announced.
Following suitable training, the medics will be able to give their patients medication such as painkillers and anti-inflammatories.
It will mean that podiatrists and physiotherapists will no longer have to refer their patients back to another healthcare worker - such as a GP - if medication is needed.
A DH spokeswoman said “advanced practitioner” physiotherapists and podiatrists in the UK would be the first in the world to be able to independently prescribe medicines where “clinically appropriate”.
Under the new legislation, physiotherapists will be able to prescribe medicines for issues such as chronic pain and respiratory diseases like asthma.
Podiatrists, who treat disorders of the foot, ankle and lower leg, will also be able to prescribe medication for their patients.
The College of Podiatry said the move will particularly benefit diabetic patients with infections of the feet and people suffering from other infections such as wounds and ingrown toenails and fungal infections.
Health minister Lord Howe said: “Physiotherapists and podiatrists are highly trained clinicians who play a vital role in ensuring patients receive integrated care that helps them recover after treatment or manage a long-term condition successfully.
“By introducing these changes, we aim to make the best use of their skills and allow patients to benefit from a faster and more effective service.”
The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP) welcomed the move, saying it will mean that patients are offered quicker and more direct access to the medicines and treatment they need.
CSP chair Dr Helena Johnson said: “Giving physiotherapists the opportunity to prescribe independently will hugely improve the care we can provide in the future.
“Patients will now receive a more streamlined and efficient service, meaning they get the medicines they need more immediately.
“An unnecessary burden will be removed from doctors, with physiotherapists taking full responsibility and accountability for the prescribing decisions they make.
“For patients, the chance of faster relief from pain or other symptoms will also mean many can benefit more quickly from their physiotherapy treatment.”
Alison Wishart, chair of the Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists, said: “Independent prescribing provides podiatrists with the opportunity to deliver more flexible services for patients - ensuring timely access to medicines, care closer to home and enabling innovation.”
The new legislation is expected to come into effect in April next year, with the first intake of podiatrists and physiotherapists to go into Health Professions Council-approved education programmes in autumn 2013.