Be an influencer

It’s time to shout about physiotherapy, collaborate and influence healthcare decision-makers

Be an influencer

Catherine Turnbull hears from CSP members who made a difference to their patients’ lives.

There has never been a more important time to raise the profile and value of the physiotherapy profession you love and create opportunities that positively affect your work and the lives of your patients. That’s the message from the CSP and members who share their experiences here of how engaging with member networks and boards, decision makers and other professions has led to real change.

Put simply, influencing from a physiotherapy perspective is about sharing your experiences and beliefs and inspiring other influencers and decision makers. It’s about engaging and building relationships to convince others to adopt and implement your ideas or change their minds to a positive view. It can become second nature and be extremely satisfying with practice.

It doesn’t have to be a ‘big ask’: a short phone call or brief tweet could lead to a life-changing meeting. However, the benefit of researching evidence that demonstrates the effectiveness of your profession, having the data and a patient case study ready for example, could lead to a change in policy, a contract or a funding win from a commissioner.

‘Influencing - whether through a CSP campaign or by another method - can enhance the reputation of the profession and make a tangible difference to local services and users,’ says Catherine Chappell, campaigns and regional engagement officer for London, East of England, East Midlands and the North East.

Support and resources

Influencing opportunities come along every day and it’s important to have your key messages ready. 

They include social media and digital platforms and conversations, coverage in regional and national media, conferences, meetings, launches, award ceremonies, exhibitions, email exchanges and that chance encounter in a lift.

‘There is plenty of support available from the CSP to help with this mission,’ Catherine says. ‘Wherever you live in the UK there is a dedicated campaigns and regional engagement (CRE) officer, ready to help with resources – presentation materials – including booklets, leaflets, videos – policy information, PR for media campaigns, case studies and influencer training. We are here to empower and inspire and give you the tools you need. 

‘CSP members know their local picture and what their patients need, and connecting with other members through regional networks and country boards helps extend the knowledge and the range of people you can influence.

‘It’s worth following people and key organisations on social media to see what their views are, what the engagement avenues are and also to find out if they are visiting your area. Just engaging gets you noticed, and you don’t know where it might lead, but you can try and steer it.

‘You could go to a politician’s surgery and share a CSP video or contact your local councillor and ask to present to the decision-maker about community rehab. If you are offering something that will save them money and benefit patients, this is a win-win. You could target the annual meeting of your local CCG and submit a question or request, or share CSP resources in the foyer and follow-up by networking with decision makers you engage with.’   

Fraser Paterson, the CSP’s first CRE officer for Scotland, agrees. He says: ‘It’s been great to hit the ground running with the rest of the Scottish team and speak to members across the country. As we know, Scotland has a unique geography and landscape for physiotherapy and our team is now brilliantly placed to engage with members and encourage influencing within the Scottish context.’

Anyone can be an influencer

CSP campaigns are backed up with lots of resources and materials to spread the word, at events, digital platforms and in person. There is information on the CSP website – including the manifesto for community rehabilitation – that you can share with canvassing election candidates.

Catherine is keen to emphasise that the power of effective influencing can be harnessed by people at any stage of their career, from students to managers – it is all about making the most of opportunities and could make a difference to the future of the profession at a time when funding is so competitive.

‘We need to be vocal and communicate our key messages that physiotherapy is good value and clinically effective,’ Catherine adds. ‘We need to encourage people to have conversations with us at every level. Influencing must become a normal, everyday part of our lives. If every member helped to influence local decisions made about service improvements, service investment, and workforce planning imagine what could be achieved across the UK.’

The CRE team has also developed the iCSP influencers’ network, which aims to bring together CSP members who want to play an active role in influencing and raising the profile of the physiotherapy profession. 

Case study

When Joseph Henson, clinical lead for the first contact physiotherapy (FCP) team in Rotherham reacted to a tweet, it led to a meeting with Nikki Kanani, NHS England’s medical director for primary care.

‘We established the team 12 months ago and the six of us ensure every patient in Rotherham can access FCP services. We’re not in every practice, but we go to surgeries across the borough and GPs can book an appointment,’ Joseph says.

How to network at events and recognise opportunities

Have a look at who is on the attendance list and spot if there is anyone there that is involved in the area that you want to explore further
don’t be afraid to introduce yourself and talk to people who you don’t know – they are probably feeling the same way there might be someone that you have heard of from Twitter or Frontline that you are interested to speak to – say hello, as it’s great to put a face to a name consider the ‘elevator pitch’ if there is something specific that you want to get across – start with the point then expand

‘When Dr Kanani tweeted to say she was going to visit Sheffield, just down the road from us, I was keen to let someone high profile in primary care know about what we are doing. It was too good an opportunity to miss.’

Joseph replied to the tweet saying his team works in Rotherham with a federation of GPs, and suggesting a meeting. CSP CRE officer Catherine Chappell organised a meeting in Sheffield and Joseph managed to grab an hour of Dr Kanani’s time to explain how the hub model works, give evidence through positive patient feedback and discuss the challenges in setting up the unique service.

‘We spoke about the wider picture, of how physiotherapists can support primary care teams, the value we can add and the resources we need, such as a room and training,’ Joseph says.

‘I felt that we had extended her knowledge about the profession and what the CSP is doing. It was a fantastic opportunity to speak with someone so influential and in Sheffield where FCP is not as well established as Rotherham.’

Joseph says that when he first used Twitter he just followed people, but now he engages more, messages his peers, learns about other projects and knows that interactions can lead to opportunities to influence.

Case study

Jane Mitchell, professional lead for physiotherapy, Cornwall Partnership NHS Trust/Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust manages 400 physios and is making the most of influencing opportunities. 
A good example was when she attended a first contact physio (FCP) event two years ago put on by the CSP South West English regional network and was excited by what was being presented. She gathered information about FCP from the CSP website and asked presenters for their contact details, which they were happy to share.

Jane sent her research to operational colleagues, local GP leads and those that she had previously worked with in commissioning. There was a lot of evidence to prove the effectiveness of the FCP role, as early pilots were extremely positive. She linked with CSP colleagues and kept the operational people updated with progress nationally but then stepped back and the operational manager wrote the business case with input from Jane and other colleagues.

What was the result in the short and long term? ‘One of my operational colleagues was able to develop and establish two pilot sites and collect the evidence locally,’ she says. ‘They also joined the national data collection. FCP is now being rolled out across Cornwall and, while I am no longer directly involved, I still link in regarding the governance and development of clinicians within these roles and keep my eye on national developments.

‘I was also able to influence a GP practice that was advertising for a band 6 FCP by sending all of the national information advising that the role should be at a higher level in order to provide the right level of specialist knowledge. They changed it to a band 7. 

I also joined the CSP South West regional network core team and have been co-chair for the last two years.’ 

Jane has plenty of other influencing successes. She finds her membership of the South West Clinical Senate Council interesting and fulfilling and urges others to join local senates. It is an opportunity for her as a physiotherapist to engage with colleagues from the region and influence on a wider scale. The senates bring together a range of professionals to take an overview of health and healthcare for local populations.

She regularly checks NHS Jobs for advanced clinical practitioner (ACP) and consultant job descriptions that physios could step into so that she has evidence that this is happening in other areas when an opportunity arises. ‘We should recruit for people with the right skills for roles and not just those who have traditionally done them,’ she says. ‘For example, traditional nurse specialist or medical roles could be undertaken by physios or other AHPs with the right skills. It is about trying to open fixed mindsets. I raise it at every opportunity in the hope that someone will remember and consider.

‘I recently sent a non-medical consultant post to a care group within the acute trust and they are quite excited about the possibility.’

Jane’s top 5 tips for physio staff

  1. be open minded with a positive growth mindset
  2. don’t be afraid to contact people who have the information that you need or who can help you with what you are trying to influence
  3. have evidence of effectiveness or success when presenting a case 
  4. know your subject and be clear what you are trying to communicate – you could be challenged
  5. be brave – don’t be afraid to ask the ‘silly’ question and network, network, network

Indeg Jameson, CSP member: ‘Who better to influence, campaign and advocate for our profession than the actual members? We are the ones with the relevant experience, knowledge, insight and examples to influence. We can’t sit back and rely on the CSP to do all the work.

The CRE team has encouraged and supported me and other members to influence. As well as receiving plenty of resources, I was lucky enough to attend an influencer training session in London, which enabled me to hone my influencing skills: recognising who the key decision makers are, the best methods for approaching them, and how to make them listen.

We need to make the most of these opportunities, building our confidence from small one-to-one influencing conversations to bigger local events and campaigns.’ 

Case study

Tom Sullivan is CSP public affairs and policy manager in Northern Ireland. His influential work with local councils uses the CSP Love activity Hate exercise? campaign as a focus.

In the Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council area 19 per cent of residents have one or more long-term medical conditions, according to the council’s strategic plan. ‘We approached the council and, with help from CSP members Catherine Burke and Gillian Bingham, made a presentation to the strategy and planning committee about Love activity Hate exercise?,’ says Tom. ‘We explained how the CSP offers free access to high quality resources we have developed through the campaign. Councillors loved it, especially as the resources are free. 

‘They agreed to endorse it and published details to signpost residents to the resources to improve their health, both on the council website and its magazine, which is delivered to all residents in the borough.

‘We were delighted as within the campaign there is bespoke advice on how residents can overcome the barriers to good health, and it fits well with the council’s plans for community health. Subsequently, the Lord Mayor has personally invited us to follow this up.’

Tom says that the success in linking with Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council is a trial run for approaches to other councils in Northern Ireland.

Here to help

Contact your campaigns and regional engagement officer for advice about promoting physiotherapy and enhancing the reputation of your profession. They are there to provide expert advice and resources to help you influence decision making locally. 

The CRE officers are:

  • Fraser Paterson – Scotland and Yorkshire & Humber @CSPFraser
  • Mindy Daubeny – South West, South Central, West Midlands, South East Coast @CSPMindy
  • Hayley Downey – North West, Wales and Northern Ireland @CSPHayley
  • Catherine Chappell – London, East of England, North East and East Midlands @CChappellCSP

    Share your influencing activity and contact the team for information by emailing

    Case study

    Lorraine Allchurch is a band 4 therapy practitioner with varied roles in the acute medical unit at Russells Hall Hospital in Dudley, which include assessing patients functionally if they are safe to return home, providing mobility aids or other equipment and making referrals for further rehabilitation.

    ‘I am lucky because I work within a multi-disciplinary team, offering OT, physiotherapy and support, and do everything I can to discharge patients to a safe place and keep them out of hospital,’ Lorraine says. 

    ‘I’ve been doing work with the CSP for about 18 months, attended the annual representative conference and got into social media and networking with people. Then the CSP sent me on influencing training and it was a brilliant day.

    ‘It gave me the confidence to realise that I could make connections for the common good and collaborate with others.’

    Lorraine took the Love activity Hate exercise? campaign message back to her workplace and spoke to colleagues, managers and the wider community. ‘It became a department campaign. I’m selling it as a development opportunity, and as a resource for teams and patients, the third sector and local government.’

    Lorraine has set up meetings on email and created groups of qualified staff and support workers to spread the word. ‘We started this in August, and it is gathering momentum. My managers are very supportive as they can see the benefits to patients. By getting staff, patients and families on board it’s enabling a culture change.’

    Lorraine’s top tip in influencing is to never underestimate what you can achieve in five or ten minutes by phone or Twitter with a clear ask. ‘It’s in the CSP toolkit booklet and it’s really useful,’ she says. 

    She has had to get used to presenting at meetings but feels great satisfaction at what has been achieved so far. People have told her she comes across well and is inspiring. ‘I’ve learnt that leadership comes from staff at all levels, not just from the top down. I’m developing my role as an influencer and if that inspires others to have a go and do good that’s wonderful.’

    Get the tools

    The CSP has published the Influencing Toolkit as a printed booklet and on its website, with the message ‘Think physio act local’. It outlines what influencing can achieve, who to influence, how to influence, how to make a case, what to do when it doesn’t go as planned, who can help, and it signposts to CSP resources and brilliant ideas on how to influence in just five, 15 or 30 minutes. 

    Join the iCSP influencers network to develop your skills and get inspired.

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