Seizing the opportunities

Catherine Pope, CSP chair, looks at some major changes in the society’s governance aimed at making its council a leaner, but more powerful, body

by Catherine Pope


The UK physiotherapy profession is at a pivotal position. The juxtaposition of increasing health demand, linked to the financial restraint of austerity, offers a golden opportunity to advance our ability to provide effective, value for money services.

But as physiotherapists, we are also at a moment of high risk to our long term relevance, as competing pressures threaten to squeeze us out of the debate about the future shape of healthcare provision. We simply don't have enough members taking up leadership positions to persuade policy makers of our value, or making decisions about the whole scale changes needed (including by ourselves). And we don’t have them then implementing those changes at the required pace.

CSP Council has been reviewing its governance to help address the issue of how we increase physiotherapy’s professional standing. To those who are now immediately bored I say ‘read on’! This is not about navel gazing or deckchair moving. This is about ensuring the leadership of our profession is fit for purpose, transparent, visible and above all, effective.

At the AGM we will bring proposals to the membership for a smaller council – reducing it from 27 to 12 – elected by the whole membership, and a smaller streamlined committee structure. The vision is to have the 12 best leaders working strategically on behalf of all members, inspiring more of them to be actively involved, to ensure we really do –as our corporate strategy says – ‘Transform lives, maximise independence and empower populations’.

You would think this is an easy idea to sell, but it's not been without its problems. We are a council elected to represent constituencies trying to persuade those who elected us that we believe there is a better way to lead our profession. We are describing modern ways for members to engage less onerously in CSP activity and decisions, which is obviously unsettling for those who are members of our current committees.

When faced with the passion and concerns of those worried about what might be lost, it is more important than ever that we, your current council, collectively and positively communicate our vision of what can be gained – namely, the 12 best leaders who inspire our members and who members aspire to be. We want a professional body and trade union that is seen as strategic and effective, heard by and influencing policy makers, and affecting change.

When I talk to members this is what they want us to deliver. The CSP’s National Group of Regional Stewards want council to be leading the membership in debating the big strategic issues affecting health and social care; to stop being everything to everyone; and to develop clear positions so that everyone knows what we stand for.

Our leading clinicians and trail blazers want us to push harder on evidence-based practice, to drive out mediocrity and develop pathways to clinical excellence and expertise so that the profession can confidently stand up as equal to the medical colleges.

This is all within our grasp. The proposals resulting from the governance review will allow more challenge and scrutiny of CSP performance, more timely and agile decision making, more robust debate of our response to the challenges and opportunities we face, and more opportunities for members to be involved in shaping our policy positions.

If this is a future that you want to be part of then I hope you will be inspired to vote in favour of these changes at the AGM and then consider getting actively involved yourself.

Catherine Pope is the CSP Chair of Council. Follow her on Twitter

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