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Advice line: Alpine allure

Tempted by thoughts of working in a French ski resort? Think twice, warns Birgit Mueller-Winkler.

Heading for the French Alps during winter to work in a ski resort for a few months might seem to be a very appealing prospect for UK physiotherapists.

However, all that glitters is not gold. Registration with the Ordre des Masseurs Kinésithérapeutes (the French equivalent to the Health and Care Professions Council) can be a challenging experience.

The legal framework for practising physiotherapy in another European country is set out in the EU’s ‘Professional Qualifications Directive’. This  offers professionals the option of registering temporarily as a visiting health professional (‘libre prestation de services’), but the French authorities expect international physios to prove they have a good level of French prior to granting temporary registration.

Registration is a legal requirement for any physiotherapist practising in France and attempts to circumvent the formal procedures are a criminal offence – not to mention the negative impact on the profession’s reputation.

Some UK physiotherapists who work for tour operators seem to assume that being employed by a British company automatically allows them to practise in France.

But this is clearly against the law and can lead to a fine of up to €30,000 (about £24,000).

In order to benefit from the CSP’s insurance cover of up to 180 days of temporary work abroad, members have to meet the national registration requirements.

Massage therapy in France is regulated and falls under the remit of physiotherapy registration; this means only registered physiotherapists can provide massage as part of their scope of practice.

It is illegal to offer sports massage without being registered as a masseur-kinésithérapeute.

Therefore, the advice for physiotherapists who are interested in working in French ski resorts is to brush up on your French language skills.

You should also ensure you allow enough time for registration before heading for the slopes.

Birgit Mueller-Winkler is the CSP’s international adviser. For further advice, email international@csp.org.uk.

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