CSP Council chair Alex MacKenzie speaks to Robert Millett about her work, and why she wants to make it easier for members to share their views
Whether she’s helping patients on a ward or striving to support the physiotherapy profession, CSP Council chair Alex MacKenzie is passionate about empowering people.
‘It’s all about getting the best out of people,’ she tells me, during a visit to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, where she works as a clinical lead in acute physiotherapy.
‘In my clinical role I try to get the best out of my patients and in a similar way my role as chair is all about getting the best out of the CSP and the best out of our members.’ Alex was elected chair in April this year, but she’s been actively involved with the society for many years; acting as both a local and regional steward, chairing the industrial relations committee and serving as CSP vice-president.
‘I’ve been involved with the CSP for a long time, because I believe it’s the best way to support physiotherapy staff so they can do what they do best – which is supporting, helping and improving people’s lives.’
Alex moved to Aberdeen, with her partner, more than 20 years ago, after originally training and working in London. Since then she has worked at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, part of NHS Grampian, where she specialised in acute oncology and haematology before taking on her current role.
Her responsibilities are now part clinical and part managerial, as she helps to oversee a team of more than 60 physiotherapists, working across three sites, while also attending to patients on the hospital’s gastrointestinal and short-stay medical units.
‘Being an acute hospital, our main focus is on getting people back home,’ she explains.
‘And I work as part of a job share, which has been fairly crucial in helping me be able to give a good amount of time to my CSP activities.’
But balancing work, family life and CSP commitments does require careful management, she adds, and an element of ‘time juggling’.
‘Luckily I have a supportive workplace, as both my manager and the staff I work with see the value of my roles within the CSP.
‘And my job share colleague is very flexible, which means I’m able to do my two normal clinical days and balance it with the chair’s role.’
But Alex is acutely aware that many CSP members don’t have the time or opportunity to commit to professional causes and concerns, which they might otherwise wish to, |in the same way that she has.
As a result, she is keen to find ways to allow members to input, even when they have very limited time, so that more physiotherapy staff can engage with the issues that matter to them, influence CSP policy and shape its strategic decisions.
New ways of engaging
Alex recently chaired the CSP governance review, which led to the introduction, in March this year, of a modernised structure of 12 council members, supported by three governing committees.
One of the advantages of the revised structure, she says, is that council members will be making the most of opportunities to make contact with members.
‘We’ve already had a number of groups who’ve requested a council member to visit them, to see what’s going on, or to participate in a discussion or to speak to a group about something the CSP is doing.
‘And we want to meet a broader range of people and attend lots of different types of events. That way we can gain a greater breadth of what’s going on and gain a wider professional understanding.’
In addition, Alex and her fellow council members are keen to usher in less formal and more flexible systems, which will make it easier for members to engage with the CSP.
‘We want members to be able to give whatever amount of time they feel they can give,’ she explains.
‘For some people that may only be two hours a year, perhaps via a webinar, or perhaps as part of a short-life working group, which just meets a few times.’
Alex hopes this more flexible approach will encourage more people to come forward, and make better use of the diverse skills, knowledge and viewpoints that exist among members.
‘The key thing for me is for people to realise that they can input and their views are welcome,’ she says.
‘We don’t just want the views of people who have been physios for 30 plus years and have done x, y and z – we also want to hear from those who are starting out, such as students, so we can get a bigger picture.’
Informing council’s decisions
Alex cites a recent event, held at CSP’s London headquarters, as a good example of innovative ways in which members can get involved and shape strategic policies.
‘We put a call out to members to get involved and several people who had never engaged with the CSP before came forward – and that’s the kind of thing we want more of.’
The event, which focused on NHS funding, saw ten members from all four UK countries come together to form a ‘physio jury’. They then listened to expert advice and discussed issues relating to health and care funding from a physiotherapy perspective.
‘What they came up with will help inform the decisions council takes,’ Alex explains.
‘So, if people have issues they feel we should be focusing on we want and need all those views in the mix so we can come up with the best strategy for what members want.’
As part of her bid, to encourage more engagement and widen participation, Alex is encouraging members to contact her and other council members directly.
‘All of our contact details are available on the CSP website,’ she says.
‘We feel that every member’s view is important and we want members to get in touch.
‘Don’t feel you have to have years of experience for your opinion to be valued. It’s about getting a range and breadth of opinions, because if many “ordinary members” gave their input it would make a massive difference to us.’
- Robert Millett
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