Advice line - Proceed with caution

Being invited to help at sports events can be tempting, but students must tread warily, warns Jamie Carson

Every year at the CSP we hear a number of cases of physiotherapy student members setting up their own websites or printing business cards calling themselves physiotherapists.

Some work as physiotherapists without any supervision from a qualified healthcare professional.

Recently, a student contacted a number of football clubs to set up some work experience and within no time had eight offers of work from semi-professional football clubs – five asking him to be their first-team physio and saying they would pay him!

Many sports clubs at a lower level either don’t have physios or have someone who runs on to the pitch with a bucket and ‘magic sponge’.

Thus students can be an attractive addition to a club while being seen as cheap labour doing unsuitable work.  

It may be tempting to accept such offers but it’s vital to remember that the title ‘physiotherapist’ is legally protected.

Any student who uses this protected title without being on the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) register may be liable to criminal prosecution under Article 39(1) of the Health Professions Order 2001.

If you are educated, trained and competent in such things as sports massage, pitch-side first aid or acupuncture you are free to practise these skills for a fee as a means of funding your physiotherapy studies.

You must, however, ensure that you do not mislead your client into believing he or she is also receiving physiotherapy, and you must also ensure that you possess adequate and appropriate insurance.

Until students qualify and join the HCPC they are not qualified or entitled to work autonomously. The CSP has a new insurance deal for student members to cover them for massage (see page 14). But the main public liability insurance only covers students performing physiotherapy when supervised by a qualified healthcare professional.

So the message to all students is go and gain valuable experience but protect yourselves at all times.

Don’t do it unsupervised or go beyond your scope of practice as this could lead to the HCPC refusing you membership in the future.

All your hard work in training as a physiotherapist could be wasted.

Jamie Carson is the CSP students’ officer

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