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Student membership of the CSP brings multiple benefits, reports Graham Clews

Question: What costs less than nine pence a day – and provides the wise purchaser with £10 million a year of professional liability protection? The answer: Student membership of the CSP.

The chances are if you are a physiotherapy student and are reading this feature that you are one of the majority in this category, who, for £32 a year, have chosen to join the Society and are experiencing the many benefits on offer. If so, why not tell others about it and encourage them to join? In making this shrewd decision they would not be alone: CSP membership is growing year-on-year and the Society enjoys a higher rate of membership take-up than any other professional association – increasing the strength of its collective voice.

Jamie Mackler, the Society’s students adviser, says: ‘As a physiotherapy student on placement or a qualified physiotherapist it’s comforting to know you aren’t alone; you are part of a nearly 50,000-strong organisation whose sole aim, in an ever-changing healthcare environment, is to safeguard the future of the profession and ensure the best possible employment conditions for all members.’

Why CSP insurance?

Professional liability insurance has always been a key feature of CSP membership, available to students, assistants and qualified members alike. This valuable element of membership continues to protect members from the anxiety of claims brought by patients, in an increasingly litigious environment, whether or not justified.

The level of cover and benefits are substantial, says Bill Hulse, director of LFC Graybrook, the CSP’s managing broker. They provide up to £5 million per claim (£10 million maximum per annum) for professional liability (this covers claims for negligent treatment or advice) and up to £10 million for public liability (this covers all other negligent non-treatment or advice claims involving personal injury or property), which far exceeds similar membership benefits available elsewhere.

The cover provides students with protection whether in NHS or non-NHS clinical placement settings anywhere in the world, except Australia, the US and Canada – a unique feature of the CSP insurance. With the benefit of CSP cover, Mr Hulse stresses, students do not need to be reliant upon the more restricted scope of cover provided by their university or placement provider, and have the assurance that the CSP cover will protect them long after their period of placement ends (remember clinical negligence claims can be brought some time after the alleged negligent treatment has occurred).

Defending potential negligence claims can be stressful for students, but from the outset they have access to a team of medico-legal experts with vast experience in dealing with physiotherapy claims and supporting members every step of the way in their time of need. This support is hard to beat.

And what about the price? Mr Hulse states that it would be almost impossible for students to buy this level of cover independently or elsewhere at anything remotely approaching the £32 CSP annual student subscription, offering outstanding value for the insurance benefits alone.

Finger on the pulse

Wendy Emberson works in private practice, running Stortford Grange, a clinic specialising in musculoskeletal and orthopaedic treatment, and takes five or six students on clinical placement each year. She is keen to highlight the other benefits CSP membership brings, saying: ‘All the other advantages of a professional body, and somewhere to go for solid advice are just as important.’

Alex Weatherley, a third year student on a four-year part-time physiotherapy degree course at Essex University, agrees. He joined the Society as soon as he began his course, and is now a student member of CSP Council. For him membership benefits include appreciating the wealth of help and information on offer, plus a sense of feeling more connected about what is going on within healthcare.

‘Of course you have access to literature at university, but the CSP has so much physio-specific information,’ he says. ‘I use the library and academic resources a lot, particularly as I’m getting towards my dissertation, and some modules that look at broader healthcare policy.’

Get ahead online

Student member Helen Tyler, who is at Northumbria University, is also enthusiastic about the benefits of membership, in particular, the merits of interactiveCSP, the Society’s member networking website. ‘iCSP and the chance to keep in touch with students from other universities is a great opportunity,’ she enthuses. ‘You can have discussions with other students, find information on courses and research projects, and with the job situation so difficult, pick up tips on interviews.’

For students, comfortable with message boards and internet forums, iCSP, to which they have full access, and the CSP website have proved very popular. Students adviser Mr Mackler describes iCSP as ‘an absolute innovation in sharing knowledge with thousands of other physio students and qualified members,’ and he notes that the CSP website is the largest physiotherapy web resource in the world. From the website students can download a free student handbook and employment pack in the members’ only section. And for those completing course work or wanting to stretch themselves, the online educational and discussion facilities are proving a huge help. In addition, students have free access to Pebble Pad – a continuing professional development e-portfolio. This is invaluable for keeping track of learning and essential for helping to prepare job applications and more on graduation.

A huge souce of support

As well as PLI, Society membership offers students a range of legal services provided by Thompson’s solicitors, which includes personal injury representation and a telephone advice line. In addition, as part of the membership package, students have access to a dedicated students adviser and a network of specially trained student reps who advise and act for students.

The CSP also has an important role to play for its members in lobbying government to improve the working lives of all of its members. Its expertise is seen in the effectiveness of its campaign to increase the graduate employment rate for physiotherapists. Latest CSP figures published in May showed that of 2,377 physiotherapists who graduated in 2008, 83 per cent were employed.

Commenting on this, Mr Mackler says: ‘It is the result of long and hard campaigning by many people in the CSP, which included lobbying ministers and other decision makers, persuading them to take action and working with key partners to bring about progress.’

Jess Belmonte, national organising officer at the CSP, says it is the capacity to come together as a profession, and the capacity to influence the Society, where student input is really important. ‘Student members can debate on iCSP, read Frontline, support their rep, and get involved in local and national campaigns. There are many positive ways to take part and help shape the profession that they are about to become part of,’ she says, adding: ‘You only get out what you put in.’

The Society also offers a professional advice service for its members. CSP professional adviser Pip White, who runs this service, explains that student members have access to a team of experienced professional advisers who can give personalised advice relevant to an individual’s particular circumstances.

She says: ‘We cover all aspects of professional practice – issues that are mentioned in either Health Professions Council standards or the CSP’s rules and standards.’ Student membership is essential to access this professional advice – CSP membership numbers are checked before answering queries, and existing members are not allowed to enquire on behalf of non-CSP members.

Ms White notes student enquiries most commonly focus on insurance, particularly for electives, scope of practice, cultural and diversity issues and health-related matters affecting their training.

Making your mark

Some advantages of membership are harder to pin down. For example, in the increasingly competitive jobs market, some jobs may include CSP membership as ‘desirable’ for applicants to have. Even if it is not, with many applicants for one post, shortlisting candidates can come down to identifying those students who show evidence of a commitment to professionalism – something student membership of the CSP can signal. Membership can also communicate your interest in and loyalty to the profession, which can be very attractive for potential employers to see.

Membership also allows students to join almost all of the CSP’s clinical interest and occupational groups, often for free or at least at a discounted rate. It’s another way both to develop as a physiotherapist, and for students to make themselves increasingly employable by adding an extra string to their bow.

Such thoughts may be far from the mind of a first year physiotherapy student, and students who are not CSP members often admit they simply haven’t got round to it. If you’re one of those people who prefers to do everything online, then you’ll be happy to hear that it’s now possible to join the Society online – so no more excuses.

Spread the word

If you’re one of the 80 per cent of students who are members of the Society and you’re reading this article, here’s a challenge. The higher the membership rate of a trade union or professional association, the more powerful, influential and representative that organisation is. So it would be great if the remaining 20 per cent were members too. Do your bit: spread the word.

Do you know anyone who isn’t a student member of the CSP? If you do – give them this issue of Frontline and ask them to read this article, and tell them your views about the benefits of Society membership. Or how about putting the feature up on a student notice board, or discussing it at a student event? The future of the profession really is in your hands.

Students adviser Mr Mackler would strongly encourage physiotherapy students to join up. ‘Happily most people who feel a commitment to the profession now and in the future are only too happy to join and make use of the many benefits available to them,’ he says. But just in case you need a little extra persuasion, students joining the CSP in the first term of the academic year will receive a free CSP polo shirt and memory stick on joining.

Finally, there’s one more financial incentive. On graduation, it costs student members just £20 to join as a qualified member. However, if you’re not a student member, this one-off joining fee is £195. Do the maths. It pays – in many ways – to be a student member.

Why waste time and money?  Visit the ‘Join Us’ area of the CSP website to join online or find out more, or phone our enquiry handling unit on 020 7306 6666

Reasons to be cheerful

Here are 10 good reasons to become a student member of the CSP

  • £10 million of annual professional liability cover (£5 million per claim) and £10 million of public liability cover all included within the subscription rate
  • online peer support from thousands of physiotherapists at 
  • expert advice from a dedicated students adviser
  • Free student handbook and employment pack – your essential guides to studying to become a physiotherapist and finding your first job
  • representation by a network of specially trained student reps and coordinators, at local, regional and national level, working to ensure your voice is heard
  • expert lobbying on your behalf, particularly aimed at improving job prospects for physiotherapy graduates
  • the latest physiotherapy news, features and jobs delivered direct to you in the CSP’s Frontline magazine, e-news bulletin and student newsletter
  • downloadable learning resources from the members-only area of the CSP website, including publications, information papers, articles and the quarterly Physiotherapy journal
  • joining as a qualified member on graduation for only £20, compared to £195 for non-member graduates (note, this joining fee is separate from the annual subscription)
  • online CPD e-portfolio to record and evidence your professional knowledge and skills from university and beyond

The insurance umbrella

Bill Hulse, of insurance broker LFC Graybrook, says student members of the CSP automatically benefit from professional liability insurance with the same limits of indemnity as qualified physiotherapists. The standard level of cover is currently £5 million per claim (£10 million for all professional liability claims per year and £10 million public liability insurance), which applies to all members living and practising in the UK, and it applies all over the world, with some restrictions in the US, Canada and Australia.

Students are protected while on clinical placements as long as they are acting under supervision of a qualified member or ‘person of equivalent professional status’. The insurance covers malpractice, professional indemnity, and Good Samaritan acts, with £100,000 cover for libel and slander, and public liability.


Full details of the conditions and extent of the CSP’s PLI cover are freely available from the physiotherapy section of insurance broker LFC Graybrook’s website and the CSP website 



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