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Interview with the CSP's International Officer

18 August 2005 - 5:30pm

As the UK assumes the Presidency of the EU, CSP international officer Liz Carrington was asked some tough questions on why does Europe matter...

The UK today assumed the Presidency of the EU for six months. To mark the occasion, CSP international officer Liz Carrington was asked her views on why does Europe matter, and what impact does the EU have on physiotherapists here in the UK...

What does the CSP's International Officer do? 

I provide information and support for CSP members wishing to work abroad, non-UK trained physiotherapists wishing to work in the UK, and I also have responsibilities within the formal links the Society has with WCPT, and with the European Region of WCPT. I also work with development agencies who recruit physiotherapists, and have involvement in diversity issues at the CSP.

 

That sounds an interesting brief. What does it involve day-to-day?

I answer calls from members with registration problems here or abroad and calls from managers needing advice about recruiting from overseas or supporting non-UK trained people in the workplace.  I support the latest addition to the CSP's CI/OG groups - the International Support group for Chartered Physiotherapists (ISG4CP) and also lead twinning arrangements in other countries with officers from Learning and Development. Recently I have been updating the CSPs specific information on over 200 countries. Other projects, in association with ERUS and L&D, include updating the information pack for managers recruiting from abroad and putting together a resource pack on developing cultural competence which is really important if we are to be equally welcoming to all incomers, and also provide appropriate services for patients from minority communities.

 

How long have you been the CSP's International Officer?

Ten years on 21st July!

 

What sparked your interest in international issues?

Two things. My family background - we have worked abroad all over the place since about 1875 - and a Winston Churchill Memorial Trust travel fellowship in Europe in 1973 looking at new ideas in paediatric physiotherapy. Hungary in the depths of the cold war was very interesting. Exposure to political and cultural issues led on to working in India for three years and Mauritius and elsewhere on a shorter-term basis, largely in Community Based Rehabilitation projects with people with disabilities. This in turn sparked an interest in cultural diversity, equal opportunities and medical anthropology.

 

We've recently had the breakdown of the EU Constitution and the UK, of course, currently holds the six-monthly rotating Presidency of the EU. Does Europe matter? What impact does the European Union have on UK physiotherapists do you think?

Yes, indeed it does! - whatever the Eurosceptics say. I feel it is far better to be involved and change things from the inside rather than pretend Europe will go away, which is why I am a member of the EU Matters working group of the European region of WCPT. For example, hot topics for physiotherapists include the new  EU Directive on the mutual recognition of professional qualifications which we hope will be finalised towards the end of this year. The ER-WCPT has contributed to a number of amendments, accepted by the EU Commission, which strengthen the registration process, for example by ensuring that those struck off in one country cannot simply move and practice in another. The ER-WCPT also supported amendments to the proposed EU Services Directive (designed to liberalise the movement of services across borders) which helped to underline unworkable aspects such as the so called 'country of origin principle' which would allow EU physiotherapists to work in the UK without HPC registration; their own regulatory body would take responsibility for any complaints.

 

Should UK physios pay more attention to 'Europe'?

Yes. Movement of workers across borders accelerated after World War II and the creation and expansion of the EU has contributed to this. Networking to share good employment and professional practices is an important part of life in the 21st century and we have much to share. Structured rotational experience, CPD opportunities, the career pathway and opportunities for specialisation, and levels of professional autonomy are things we should not take for granted. They are the envy of colleagues in other countries. Being involved in Europe enables us to influence the agenda and to better understand colleagues who come to work in the UK.

  

The CSP was twinned with the Czech physiotherapy association, UNIFY, until 2003. What were the benefits for the CSP from this arrangement and what did you learn?

Under the auspices of ER-WCPT the CSP was twinned with UNIFY in the Czech Republic for three years from 2001 to 2003. Capacity building objectives, prior to EU accession in May 2004, included collaborating to promote evidence based practice, professional autonomy, better CPD opportunities, a stronger voice at government level, a marketing strategy and specialisation through the development of clinical interest groups. The business case for the CSP was about recognising that others see us a leaders in the field, shouldering moral and political responsibilities as members of ER-WCP, and raising our game in respect of cultural awareness. It is valuable to reflect on our own situation, as others see us! There was helpful two-way discussion on common issues, for example the growth of CIGs and how they relate to the parent body.

 

What's your favourite EU/international website?

EURES: http://europa.eu.int and http://www.euro.who.int/observatory. Visit them and find out why.

 

What do you think the biggest challenge is for the CSP from a European/international perspective?

Two things. First, recognising that there is an European agenda and deciding how to position ourselves; and second, ensuring that our members have the support they need to be a workforce competent to deal with a diverse society, both in terms of attitudes to other colleagues and the design of services.

 

Do you think there should be a member-led 'EU & International Group' to look at these issues more closely? How do we attract members' interest in this?  

From 1982 the International Committee of Council ran for nine years but closed in 1991 when it was felt that international work was a cross cutting issue for every CSP function. My post is designed to be a focus for international working so I try to work across functions as much as I can. We need to engage members' interest by expanding the type of information on the web and probably by using iCSP as well.

 

Thanks Liz!

 

The UK's priorities for its Presidency can be seen at www.eu2005.gov.uk.

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