Consultant network

Consultant physiotherapists talk to Nina Paterson about their hopes for the new CSP-recognised consultant network

Consultant network

It’s always energising to talk with physiotherapists passionate about their jobs. It’s even more exciting when those people want to share their experiences, their expertise, learning from each other while supporting and mentoring others earlier in their careers to aspire to the same level of practice. 

And that’s exactly what it’s like to sit down with Charlie Winward and Chris Mercer, the two co-chairs of the newly formed consultant physiotherapy professional network, as well as Jess Gent the executive committee’s newly appointed communications lead. 

Like other healthcare professions, physiotherapy has matured, and we now see clearly defined pathways being established from preceptorship and early careers through to enhanced, advanced, and of course consultant practice. 

Members working in advanced practice have already been networking together within the Advanced Practice Physiotherapy Network (APPN), which has recently merged with the Association of Chartered Physiotherapists in Orthopaedic Medicine and Injection Therapy, to strengthen their collective voice and pool resources and expertise. APPN is thriving – offering support to advanced practitioners across all sectors, but today the focus is on the newest CSP professional network, and I’m chatting with Charlie, Chris and Jess a mere 30 minutes after their inaugural executive meeting. It’s fair to say they are excited, and rightly so.

Consultant physiotherapists Charlie Winward, Oxford University Hospital Trust, Chris Mercer, University Hospital Sussex, Jess Gent, Sussex Community NHS Trust
Consultant physiotherapists Charlie Winward, Oxford University Hospital Trust, Chris Mercer, University Hospital Sussex, Jess Gent, Sussex Community NHS Trust

The network, which will work closely with APPN, is the first in a decade to be formally recognised by the CSP. Welcoming this development, CSP director of practice and development Ash James notes: ‘It’s important that we celebrate the members who are at the top of our profession. It helps others and the health system see what physiotherapy is capable of, and it allows members to see what they can achieve. It’s aspirational and inspiring.’

All three are keen to highlight that they are standing on the shoulders of giants and this network is here in large part because of those pioneers who have gone before. 

It’s also clear how proud they are of the value consultants add to the healthcare system, offering expertise across Health Education England’s multiprotection framework five pillars of advanced practice – bringing highly specialised and transformational skills to the table across clinical, leadership, education, practice/service development and research. 

As Charlie notes this is important for the profession but more than that, for patients too: ‘Consultants contribute to advancing effective cultures of learning in every part of the health and care system. It is pivotal in supporting excellent patient care, workforce retention, research, and innovation.’

It clear to see why establishing this network is such good news. The network will provide a formal space for networking, provide a supportive environment and resources for those new to the role or developing into it, and be a rich resource for established consultants too.

The group will also support and collaborate with external national/international organisations wishing to understand the role and draw on their collective expertise with the goal of changing practice and development.

They also know there is still lots do. Charlie notes:

In today’s ever-evolving healthcare landscape, the role of advancing practice has become increasingly vital

‘The pinnacle of a senior clinical career is now often recognised as reaching a consultant role and while these posts are not new to physiotherapy, there is still a lack of clarity about the role and career progression for many.’

The network aims to be a collective voice to help bring that clarity. What’s also exciting is the goal for that voice to be diverse from the outset. The executive itself boasts someone who has been in post a week and others who have been consultants for more than 20 years, a validation that this is a welcoming and inclusive space for all. The group is also determined that consultant practice becomes the norm wherever physios work. There are some consultants in private practice already, but they want to see these posts embedded across all sectors.

‘The top of our profession is not diverse enough,’ Chris says. ‘The executive plans to address that, working closely with the CSP diversity networks.’

I’m struck by how often Charlie, Chris, and Jess, talk about the network being accessible, diverse and inclusive, and their ambition to build a diverse community with a powerful collective voice. So, if you are already a consultant physio – be part of that transformation and join the network. 

The consultant network will launch in early 2024. Look out for details of how to join in Frontline, on the CSP website and on our social media channels. Find the network here within our professional networks directory and on X (formerly Twitter): @ConsultantsCSP

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