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Make your mark

With days to go before the deadline ends for nominations to join CSP committees, Ian A McMillan asks existing members what they’ve gained from the experience

Perhaps you’ve never thought of yourself as someone who could make your mark on physiotherapy at a national level.

If so, then now would be an ideal time to take stock and consider what you might have to offer.

There are many opportunities as a member to influence, and even lead, the CSP’s activities over the coming years, whether you are a qualified, an associate or a student member.

Though several long-standing committee members who spoke to Frontline admitted they had felt some trepidation at their first meetings, they said that supportive CSP officers soon calmed their initial fears. From the word go, they were made to feel welcome and that their contributions were appreciated.

Claire Strickland, who is head of the CSP’s practice unit, was a veteran industrial relations committee (IRC) member before going on to become Council vice chair, chair and treasurer. She eventually joined the society’s workforce in 2011.

‘Sixteen years was long enough to sit on the IRC and Council. It’s really important that we get fresh ideas and fresh people to reflect the changes in the profession.  

‘Having said that, being a committee and Council member and chair gave me an understanding and breadth of knowledge that I would not have had if I had simply been “back at the ranch” in the NHS.

‘It broadens your horizons, helps you articulate the value of physiotherapy and helps you mould the way the profession is going. It’s also really good for your continuing professional development. We also had lots of fun at times.

‘Being on committees and Council gave me the confidence to make important decisions about service redesign in my NHS role and also helped to raise the profile of physiotherapy in my trust.’

Obtaining manager’s support is ‘crucial’

Ms Strickland acknowledges the importance of having had a ‘sympathetic manager’ who backed her involvement in the CSP’s activities.

‘But with the pressures the health service is under now, people are reporting increasing difficulties in getting time off to attend meetings,’ she adds.

One associate member who hasn’t had a problem in that department is Angela Brett, who is enjoying a four-year stint on the associates committee.

She’s just been told by her trust that she can take the full 10 days off she requested over the next two years to attend committee meetings, having successfully made the case for being involved in CSP committees.

Cabella Lowe steps down in October after four years on the professional practice and service delivery committee, the last two of which she’s been vice chair. ‘Looking back, it has been a really good experience, though it was a bit intimidating at first.

‘I came into it not really understanding how the CSP functioned but was made to feel really welcome. Coming from the independent sector, I found the discussions were very inclusive and that my opinions were valued. I didn’t feel marginalised simply because I didn’t work in the NHS’,’ she notes.

‘I think some people might be put off because they don’t consider themselves to be serious and knowledgeable enough.

But, in reality, we need people on the committee who work on the coalface day-in-and-day-out, and they feed that experience into the decision-making process.

Ms Lowe has a challenging ‘day job’: she’s professional head of physiotherapy for Nuffield Health, which runs 31 private hospitals, 56 gyms (fitness and wellbeing centres) as well other sites.

‘We also run a third-party physiotherapy network, taking referrals from private sector medical insurers. We are the biggest employer of physiotherapists outside the public sector,’ she says proudly.

Like Ms Strickland, Ms Lowe has her employer’s backing. ‘They have been really supportive and thought it would be good professional development for me. To them, it was an asset to be seen to be supporting the work of the CSP.’

Sara Eastburn’s four-year term as chair of the education committee ends in October.

Ms Eastburn, who is head of division of health and rehabilitation at Huddersfield University, says: ‘I’ve found it be valuable in terms of networking opportunities and understanding the business of the CSP, such as governance and reporting structures.

‘It’s a commitment and people need to recognise that, but if your employer is supportive of you being engaged with your professional body, then it’s a great opportunity.’

Has being based in Yorkshire proved be a hindrance for her? ‘It’s only a couple of hours by train to London and meetings don’t normally start until 10 or so and normally finish by 3.30 or 4pm. It’s a longer day than normal but is “do-able”.’

Motivated by need to ‘add value’

Jill Barker, a senior physio at is the IRC’s current vice chair but has been attending for many years through being a regional steward.

‘Last year I also had the opportunity to be on the committee for Physiotherapy UK, and used the video conferencing facilities for some of the meetings. I helped to manage the reconstructive surgery stream.’

‘The key to being on a committee, in whatever capacity, is to make sure you benefit your department, your team or yourself professionally.

‘Physiotherapists can become insular because there’s such an emphasis on clinical work, particularly in the NHS, and we can forget the benefits of being involved in the wider arena.’

Judith Pitt-Brooke is approaching the half-way mark of her four-year term on CSP Council. She also sits on the research and development committee, which has three vacancies.

‘I have found it very rewarding as everybody on both committees is open to receiving different ideas.’ Before setting up her practice in Loughborough, Mrs Pitt-Brooke lectured at the University of Nottingham for 15 years.

‘I’m made to feel that my contribution is valuable. Every day I’m down in London, I’m not earning any money. But everything I do at work – whether it’s fee-earning or not – I need to feel personally that I’m adding value.

During my career – whether in the NHS, education or private practice – I have felt passionate about the profession. My work at the CSP committees is an extension of that.’ fl

Sally Gosling

Joining a committee gives members opportunities to raise issues that spring from their day-to-day practice, says Sally Gosling.

Holding the post of CSP assistant director of practice and development, she believes the current pace and scale of change across health and social care in the UK means that it’s more important than ever for members to engage in the challenges and opportunities presented.

The issues include service delivery, demonstrating impact and value, and developing practice and education, she says.

‘Being on a CSP committee is an excellent opportunity to network with peers within physiotherapy, share perspectives, deepen your understanding on what new policies and structures mean for the profession, and identify CSP priorities for how it leads and supports members,’ Dr Gosling notes.  

An increasing number of meetings can be attended remotely, using the CSP video conference facilities, Dr Gosling points out.

But for those members who prefer to attend in person, travel and accommodation costs are covered by the CSP.

There are currently vacancies on several practice and development and IRC committees. The deadline for submitting nomination forms is 14 June, so there’s no time to lose. For more information, visit: www.csp.org.uk and search for ‘committee elections’

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