Balancing act

The CSP is inviting members to help pilot a new Code of Members’ Professional Values and Behaviour to replace its 2002 rules. Times have changed since then, as Robert Millett reports

Should a physiotherapist appear on a television talent show? Is it un-professional for a physiotherapist to endorse a commercial product? Does a physiotherapist working as a pole-dancer out-of-hours bring the profession into disrepute? These are among the many types of moral and behavioural dilemmas that the new Code of Members’ Professional Values and Behaviour will help to address. In today’s tough financial climate, many qualified physiotherapists are taking on second jobs and students are frequently working in order to fund their studies. However, CSP members are often concerned that their secondary employment, or leisure time activities, could potentially disgrace the profession of physiotherapy, warns Pip White, CSP professional adviser. She often receives queries from members who are keen to start a new venture but wary that it may contravene CSP’s expectations of members. Although an activity may be common place and perfectly legal, the public perception of some professions or some types of behaviour can pose problems, says Pip White. ‘Every year we get queries from members who have got through the first rounds of “The X Factor” auditions but aren’t sure if they should proceed in case it could be seen as unprofessional.’ But it’s not just about second jobbing. New technology and the advent of social networking, together with increasing complexities of practice — including the scope of the job, a physio’s role and the settings in which they work — have also produced a host of previously un-encountered questions about what is and is not professionally acceptable. ‘The revised code will ensure that we are providing a modern framework within which physiotherapists can practise,’ said Pip White. ‘We understand that practice changes and develops, so we want to ensure that members can practise within a modern framework.’ The new code seeks to define the professional values and behaviour that underpin CSP members’ physiotherapy roles. The resource encourages members to take responsibility for their own decision-making and actions, while simultaneously promoting members’ professionalism. The document does not stipulate set rules for specific scenarios; instead it provides a behavioural framework that can be applied to any situation.

The four principles

The code is based on four principles that convey the professional values and behaviour that the CSP expects its members to demonstrate. These principles are based on contemporary healthcare ethics and professional values and concepts, says Pip. The principles and sub-elements are overtly positive, stating what physios should be doing, rather than what they should not do, she adds.      


The new code is designed to reflect the varied health and social care environments of today. As such it aims to be inclusive and applicable to all CSP members, regardless of role, sector, setting or career stage. ‘Physiotherapists work in very diverse settings and with a wide group of people’ said Pip. ‘The new code is not just NHS-focused but takes into account the fact that many members work in other settings.’ Angela Brett, Chair of the physiotherapy Associates Board, welcomed the inclusive aspect of the draft. ‘It is a cohesive document encompassing the whole membership,’ she said, adding: ‘It gives scope for development in support worker roles.’ Angela explained that the benefits of the code will also extend to the public and to service users, and that awareness and adherence to the code should ensure a universal good standard of service. Meanwhile Sally Gosling, CSP assistant director of practice and development, emphasised the importance of patients in the new code. ‘Crucially, it puts service users to the fore, and recognises the increasingly complex inter-professional and inter-agency settings in which members practise,’ she said. ‘The code sets high standards, recognising that all members have an advocacy role for the profession as a whole.’

Piloting the new code

Between now and June 2011 the CSP is piloting the new code. This will be to find out how useful the resource is in supporting members in their daily practice and to identify what refinements and further guidance will be helpful. A key focus of the pilot evaluation will be how readily the code can be applied to members’ activity and how well it supports members in complex decision-making. Once this is completed it is due to be signed off by Council and become binding. CSP has previously consulted members via its committees, iCSP, the regional and country networks and a project steering group. It has also been given legal advice, and the Health Professions Council has been consulted to ensure the code maps against regulatory requirements.


CSP is now inviting members to comment on the practical application of the code. Feedback from the pilot evaluation will be used to identify where more guidance is warranted, and will be used to help review and update the CSP Standards of Physiotherapy Practice. fl

Robert Millett

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