How physiotherapy benefits from a Euro-debate

CSP chair Catherine Pope has been in Cyprus, not for sun, but some serious physio discussions

by Catherine Pope

Physiotherapy doesn't feature highly in the issues being publically debated concerning the upcoming European Union referendum. But I thought it would be interesting to reflect on an example of European physiotherapists working together to improve standards of practice across the continent.

In April, I had the great honour of representing the CSP and UK physiotherapy at the European Region of the World Confederation of Physical Therapy (ER-WCPT) general meeting in Cyprus. Of the 39 member organisations, 34 were present, and I was supported in the UK delegation by Philip Hulse, vice chair of council, and Natalie Beswetherick, director of practice and development.

Fortunately for us, the meetings are held in English. Even so, it's a considerable challenge to find the clearest way of explaining a proposal so that all have a shared understanding of what's being said, before we even start making a decision. For example even in the UK we have different understandings of the terms advanced and specialist, so imagine trying to get an agreed definition from 34 countries that meets everyone's requirements.

Read more about the Euro debate in a Frontline article on the pros and cons of being in Europe.

After four days of breaking everything down to simple words and phrases I found myself losing the ability to communicate at all, telling someone we were going to the place where you catch a plane rather than an airport!

So what do we all discuss (while trying to ignore the sunshine and scenery outside)? Mostly the focus was on sharing best practice and learning from each other's experiences in achieving professional milestones. At this meeting the Irish Society were celebrating that they have finally achieved protection of title and independent regulation after many years of campaigning, drawing on the experiences of the UK and other European nations.

There is always considerable interest in how the UK have achieved and how we are progressing advances such as self-referral and independent prescribing. But we also learn from other nations, particularly the Scandinavian countries, who are further ahead than us in areas such as ergonomics, prevention and public health.

A lot of the work is aimed at raising the standards of physiotherapy practice, so that there are common education requirements, guidelines and standards of practice across all the member organisations. Some of you may wonder what we get out of this and it's true that we are a net giver rather than taker. However we all benefit from higher standard of physiotherapy everywhere, as better outcomes lead to a more positive profile for the profession.

One significant example of this is the European Commission's programme 'Transparency and mutual evaluation of regulated professions'. This aims to ensure that every European Union country reports the regulation requirements for its professions and where possible removes the barriers in place to those regulated in another member country. Put simply this will mean that a physiotherapist regulated in the UK will be recognised as being regulated to work in any other EU country and, where the regulation requirement is the same, vice versa, removing additional barriers for inter-European recruitment. It's therefore very important for patient safety that we are all assured that our regulatory baselines meet the same standard.

International collaboration therefore enriches the profession by improving standards and outcomes across the world and increasing our sphere of influence. In November we are hosting the 4th European Congress of the WCPT 'Advancing physiotherapy; demonstrating value and impact' in Liverpool. Physiotherapists, associates and students from Europe and further afield will congregate to share best practice, innovation in education and the latest research.

I encourage you all to take the opportunity to experience the best that the world of physiotherapy has to offer.

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