The importance of being chartered

What is the value for physiotherapists of being chartered? Matthew Limb explores the issues

What does chartered status mean to you? For CSP chief executive Phil Gray it is ‘substantially a hallmark of quality and excellence for the profession’. He believes it is also viewed that way by the public and other professions. ‘We have a long and credible history with our chartered status but it’s not something that’s just embossed in a coat of arms, it has a living and dynamic quality that continues to be renewed by what we, and our members, do to promote professional standards and effective practice.’ There are around 900 organisations with chartered status, but the CSP is different in one particular way, as Sally Gosling, CSP assistant director of practice and development, explains: ‘How we use chartered status is unusual: individuals become eligible for chartered status as they graduate from a CSP-approved programme, register as a physiotherapist in the UK and become a qualified member of the CSP.’ For the Society, the expectations of qualifying programmes in physiotherapy (embodied in the 10 outcomes of the curriculum framework) effectively define chartered status. This is in contrast to the more usual trend for professional bodies to confer chartered status only after individuals have shown evidence of professional development at a point beyond initial qualification.

Different approaches

Andrea Peace is the CSP’s head of professional policy and information and, as a qualified librarian, belongs to the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals. She completed an MA in information science, but to become a chartered CILIP member had to undertake a further programme to hone various skills. She explains: ‘It meant submitting an evaluation report, like a portfolio, and this was assessed by a chartership board against criteria to show your skills development and competencies.’ For chartered CILIP members, the process doesn’t end there, since chartership is just another staging post on a continuum. ‘There’s a progression through chartership and revalidation to fellowship. It’s basically a more formal process to demonstrate lifelong learning and show your progression’. The British Psychological Society, which was granted its Royal Charter in 1965, provides another example. To become a chartered psychologist, members must be graduates and have completed a BPS-accredited postgraduate professional training course, plus any required period of supervised practice, or have a research doctorate in psychology.

Time for a debate?

Recent developments, and especially reforms in health regulation, mean the concept of chartered status for physiotherapists has come to be viewed in a new light, although it is too soon to say whether this will have any material consequences for CSP members. This change stems principally from the achievement of protection of title for physiotherapy and the overhaul of the whole framework of professional regulation earlier this decade, with the formation of the Health Professions Council. Sally Gosling says: ‘Before protection of title came in, it was hugely significant whether someone was a member of the CSP and held chartered status.’ However, given the new, positive context, in which individuals have to be HPC-registered to call themselves and practise as a physiotherapist in the UK, the question arises as to whether chartered status, as currently conferred, remains clearly understood and is seen to represent professional value and excellence as strongly as it could. Now could be the time to open up a debate about if, and by what means, anything needs to be done to reinvigorate or redefine chartered status in order to strengthen public understanding about chartered physiotherapists’ professional excellence and to raise their profile. Marilyn Andrews, who is a pro-vice chancellor at Keele University and chair of the CSP’s quality assurance and enhancement group, says such a discussion will need to reflect changes that have taken place within the profession, and within its regulation and education. She accepts it could be argued the CSP should move more in line with other chartered bodies. ‘We do have other benchmarks now to assess the level of new graduates and the preparedness of an individual to enter the profession. Maybe that is sufficient and we could make chartered status a reward for something additional, for ongoing development of professional excellence’.

A membership decision

Marilyn Andrews stresses that any such change would be for the membership to decide. ‘What for me is very significant now is that a physiotherapy career is a journey – people have to continue to learn professionally throughout their working life to meet patient and service changing needs and seize fresh career opportunities.’ She adds: ‘We need to look very carefully at the whole professional journey and make sure we have the maximum benefit from our chartered status. We could be using it more as a real signal of a higher order of excellence as people move through their career pathway.’ The chair of CSP Council, Ann Green, says the Society’s Charting the Future project provides the opportunity to strengthen the profession through how chartered status is used. This could mean revisiting the ‘unique selling point’ of chartered status in a way that would most clearly benefit patients and best position the profession in times of significant change. Some changes, perhaps in the ‘method or route’ towards gaining chartered status may be inevitable over time, given nearly 90 years have elapsed since the Royal Charter was granted, says Phil Gray, although he adds there is ‘no need to rush that hurdle’. He expects a lively discussion about how this might happen as the future direction of travel for the profession continues to be reviewed. ‘Going forward, it’s really important the contract with the public continues to be renewed and we continue to earn their trust.’ FL

  • The 90th anniversary of the granting of the Royal Charter is on 9 June 2010. The Society will mark the occasion.

Frontline would like to hear from you

What do you think? Is it time for a debate about if, and by what means, anything needs to be done to reinvigorate or redefine chartered status for physiotherapists? Email your response, stating if you are happy for it to be published, to features editor Catherine Hill at Alternatively join our discussion and debate online at  interactiveCSP

A history of chartered status

The origin of chartered status for physiotherapists dates back nearly ninety years. King George V signed the Royal Charter on 11 June, 1920, for what was then the Chartered Society of Massage and Medical Gynmastics. Granted on the advice of the Privy Council, this gave legal status to the Society, defining its rights as a collective body and its purpose in the public interest. The Royal Charter also improved the status and perception of physiotherapy, and recognised the Society’s pre-eminence in its field. From the start, chartership symbolised legitimacy, but it also recognised other qualities: professionalism and competence in public service, the pursuit of excellence and adherence to clear moral and ethical values. In addition, the charter defines the profession’s scope of practice around four key pillars.

The lozenge logo

The CSP lozenge logo has appeared in a number of guises. The first version was issued in 1915 and bore the dates of the formation of the Society – 1894 – and of the Incorporated Society of trained Masseuses – 1900. The central panel featured entwined initials in gold on a white enamel background, with the motto Digna sequens, that is ‘Following worthy things’, inscribed on a garland. In 1920, the Society’s title changed to the Chartered Society of Massage and Medical Gymnastics, and its motto changed too: becoming Digna sequi – ‘Follow worthy things’ or ‘Pursue worthy aims’. And following a competition, the lozenge’s central panel altered: the new version incorporated an irradiated sphere depicting electrotherapy, a red lion representing royalty, a lilly symbolising purity and wall bars. Today’s version was finalised in 1943 after the Society’s name change that year to the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy and followed on from the granting of arms in 1938, which brought about another change in design. Today’s lozenge features the irradiated sphere of electrotherapy, three lions representing the Royal Charter and the queen’s patronage, and two hands highlighting the craft of the physiotherapist. 

Matthew Limb

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