Past, present and future

The evolution of the CSP professional and diversity networks, and how they offer vital support to members today

Past, present and future

Catherine Turnbull writes:

When the CSP received its Royal Charter from George V in 1920 it was in recognition of the society’s high standing and its respected education and professional standards.

But the society’s first clinical interest and occupation group (CIOG) was actually formed one year earlier, when the Association of Blind Certified Masseurs was established, in 1919. The Association of Visually Impaired Chartered Physiotherapists (AVICP), as they are now known, celebrated their centenary last year:

Following this, in 1922, the Association of Teachers of Physiotherapy (now disbanded) was formed and many other specialist groups went on to be established.

Today there are around 30 professional networks (PNs) – as they are now known – and diversity networks, recognised by the CSP.

Although the focus of each network is different and includes professional specialisms and specific patient populations, they all uphold and foster those respected education and professional standards.

Natalie Beswetherick, CSP director of practice and development, says the networks bring together a wealth of expertise and knowledge, which relate to the patient populations that they each work with.

‘I would urge anybody who wants to learn more about their specialism from a group of highly expert individuals, to consider joining their relevant professional network.

‘It is through them that the CSP can ensure that we are up to date with expertise and knowledge, and we look to them to provide this.

‘For instance, they have been doing a fabulous job during the Covid-19 pandemic, sharing advice, guidance and resources with their members and the wider CSP membership.’

Many of the networks began as small meetings of members with a special interest and some have evolved into professional business entities or charities – adapting to share expert knowledge, provide experience, training, support, funding and

CPD to members, campaign and influence on behalf of their professions and collaborate, represent, research and provide guidance.

More than half of CSP members now belong to a network and numbers are growing.

Frontline asked several networks how they have adapted over the decades and why they have such value today.

The Musculoskeletal Association of Chartered Physiotherapists (MACP)

The Association of Manipulative Therapy was set up in 1967. It was also known as the Manipulation Association of Chartered Physiotherapists, before it was renamed in 2010 to reflect a more accurate description of the state of musculoskeletal physiotherapy practice. The MACP is a membership organisation of 1,174 physios, who have reached a recognised standard of excellence in musculoskeletal physiotherapy. It works in partnerships with other MSK and physiotherapy organisations.

MACP communication officer Matt Daly says: ‘I’ve found that members are attracted because of the structured learning processes, and the focus on high level clinical reasoning around all aspects of MSK physiotherapy.

‘Our members include lecturers, private practitioners, researchers, clinical leaders and more lately sonographers, which to me represents the diversity of physio members.’

Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, the MACP has been working to support developments and to represent its interest in promoting MACP for MSK services at a national level.

This has been part of a collaborative effort with a range of stakeholder groups and networks. ‘It has been key to strengthen these links, to support each other during these unprecedented times and to move forwards with shaping the future for MSK physiotherapy,’ Matt adds. 

Physio First

Physio First was formed in 1952, as the Organisation of chartered physiotherapists in Private Practice (OCPPP) to represent the interests of self-employed private physiotherapists – something it still does today.

It is a trade association of self-employed chartered physiotherapists in private practice, and a dynamic professional network of the CSP with around 3,000 members.

The vast majority are business owners, working either as self-employed sole traders, or in small to medium sized practices.

Pam Simpson, honorary communication officer, has been a volunteer post holder for Physio First for 15 years, and a member for 38 years. She says: ‘We have a clear purpose and intent, which is to champion evidence-based cost-effective private physiotherapy with Physio First members in the changing healthcare marketplace. All our resources of time, energy and money are aimed at achieving this.

‘Membership of Physio First provides everything you need to become a thriving provider of demonstrable quality private physiotherapy within a strong, influential and trusted community.’

During the Covid crisis Physio Firsthas worked very closely with the CSP to provide help, support and resources for members, whose struggling businesses were forced to close for traditional face to face treatments.

‘We have worked on all the joint guidance and will continue to do so as we move into the next stages, now assisting members to rebuild their businesses,’ Pam says.

‘Some members have adapted to remote consultations but almost all are now returning to face-to-face appointments albeit with different working methods and a greater use of technology.’ 

Diversity networks

The CSP’s three diversity network groups were founded 25 years ago. They are DisAbility, Black Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) and Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender+ (LGBT+). They are open to all CSP members, including students and associates, and membership is confidential, with access to details restricted to those officers who work directly with them. The networks typically meet twice a year and include joint sessions on issues of common interest.

BAME’s aim is to influence and impact CSP activities affecting BAME members and raise non-BAME members’ awareness of related issues, including BAME representation across the physiotherapy profession, and challenge factors that limit individual opportunities.

The DisAbility network is for CSP members with disabilities of any form and aims to increase awareness that those with disabilities can be and are excellent physiotherapists and support workers undertaking physiotherapy duties.

The LGBT+ network supports and empowers members with inclusion in the physiotherapy profession, aiming to improve the lives of members, service users and their communities.

Siân Caulfield, CSP national officer for equality and diversity, says : ‘The networks allow us to share ideas and build our understanding of the challenges and opportunities we face, in a safe supportive environment.

‘They are a springboard to spread our individual and collective learning among the membership and in our workplaces, physiotherapy, and the wider world.

‘A key activity for the networks is peer support, and we share our problems and successes.’

She adds that Covid-19 has demonstrated how important the networks are. ‘The BAME network in particular has seen a huge increase in membership during the pandemic, with over 100 members joining, to take the network size to over 800.

‘Issues such as the disproportionate impact of Covid on BAME workers and Black Lives Matter have led to some important discussions.’ CSP Diversity networks

Association of Trauma and Orthopaedic Chartered Physiotherapists (ATOCP)

The ATOCP celebrates its 75th anniversary this year, having launched in 1945. Its interest lies in orthopaedics– inpatients and outpatients – elective and trauma.

It has around 560 members, who receive a magazine and guidelines for practice, and have access to events such as study days, lectures, and an annual conference.Regional groups across the UK provide regular educational and networking events. The network also influences professional practice, policy, and research.

Chair Anthony Gilbert says there have been huge changes over the ATOCP’s history: ‘We nearly folded in 2012, as many committee members reached retirement age, and over the last eight years we have been building our committee, with a lot of support from the CSP.

‘In 2014 we rebranded to incorporate “trauma” into our title and our committee has been established to support our 2018-2022 strategy, “To be recognised as a world class network, facilitating evidence based excellent patient care, in trauma and orthopaedic physiotherapy”. We have established affiliate special interest group status with the British Orthopaedic Association and we jointly run our conference as part of the BOA conference.’

Anthony reveals that the ATOCP has been revitalised through many initiatives, including podcasts, regional networks and social media channels, and will run its first virtual conference this year.

Many ATOCP members have been working on the front line during the pandemic. ‘We have had colleagues being redeployed across acute care and to the NHS Nightingales. Some have returned from nonclinical roles, while others have supported members through other jobs. And colleagues have embraced new ways of working to include virtual consultations,’Anthony say .

  • CSP members with a special interest in orthopaedics are welcome to join:

The Association of Chartered Physiotherapists in Sports and Exercise medicine (ACPSEM)

The ACPSEM supports chartered physiotherapists who are interested in, and or work in, sports and exercise medicine (SEM). It helps members, currently around 1,000, to develop their knowledge and skills, and provides a network of sports physiotherapists to promote experiential learning opportunities.

It was established in 1973 as the Association of Chartered Physios in Sports Medicine.

The CSP endorsed a name change to include ‘exercise’, more closely reflecting members’ practice and aligning the name with other professions working in sports medicine. It now also uses the name Physiosinsport - particularly across social media platforms.

The ACPSEM is proud of its international collaboration and influence, which includes being founding members of the International Federation of Sports Physical Therapy (IFSPT) and World Federation of Athletic Training and Therapy (WFATT).

‘Domestically, the ACPSEM offers a recognisable path of professional development and life-long learning to help physiotherapists working in sport, by providing evidence of directed and relevant development,’ says chair Stephen Mutch, who explains some of the benefits for members.

‘We are adapting course content for online learning, and our members enjoy discounted rates for courses, access to special events, regular journals, the CPD pathway, job promotion, special member-only offers and free access across multiple journals.’

Stephen adds that the ACPSEM has been busy supporting members during the pandemic. ‘In recognition of many members in private practice we ensured that key messages from meetings such as MSK Partners were widely disseminated, and promoted CSP/Physiofirst initiatives to members.’ #LockdownLearning education events were hosted and Covid-19 related material was promoted on social media channels and e-newsletter bulletins, which became weekly to members. 

Pelvic, Obstretic & Gynaecological Physiotherapy (POGP)

The POGP began in 1948 – the same year as the NHS – as the Obstetric Physiotherapy Association (OPA), with an aim to discuss the national provision of ante and post-natal physiotherapy. In the 1950s the OPA was recognised by the CSP as a special interest group.

Now the POGP is a registered charity and a membership organisation and professional network of the CSP with more than 900 members.

Its aim is to advance health education in the area of pelvic health by maintaining a professional network of physiotherapists working in this specialism; supporting research, providing and promoting the training of physiotherapists in the relevant fields and raising awareness and understanding of physiotherapy in the field of pelvic health.

All members have access to training programmes, a peer reviewed bi-annual health journal and an online peer community to educate, support and promote the specialist physiotherapist.

Chair Katie Mann says that during lockdown, members faced many challenges in their work and thanked them for ‘being an astonishing group of specialist professionals with seemingly infinite resource and goodwill’.

The POGP communications team has kept members informed and shared advice on the POGP Facebook page.

‘It has been heart-warming to hear the support members are giving each other on our online community with ideas of how to adapt in these times,’ Katie says. ‘The CSP Coronavirus updates have also been a really useful resource for all members.’

Association of Chartered Physiotherapists in Respiratory Care (ACPRC)

The ACPRC was founded in 1980 and, with 1,500 members, it is now the largest respiratory physiotherapy network in Europe. The association rebranded in 2016 with four themed strategies: connecting people; sharing skills and knowledge; research and best practice; and leadership and innovation.

Last year, regional champion Lucy Gardiner set up regional networks, which enable local clinicians to network and share ideas.

The ACPRC works closely with key stakeholders to showcase and represent respiratory butes to guidelines, shares key documents with members and short courses and conferences provide clinicians with an ideal opportunity to learn new skills and knowledge, network and share information.

Chair Ema Swingwood says there are multiple benefits to joining the ACPRC: ‘You become part of a very friendly, supportive and all-inclusive active on social media with nearly 8,000 followers.’

When Covid-19 reached the UK, the ACPRC initially supported the wider respiratory network by making all its online resources open access.‘We produced a specific Covid-19 resource page with teaching videos and links to guidelines and podcasts,’ Ema says. ‘And we’ve also showcased the essential and important role of respiratory physio with Covid-19 patients, which is very much from the front door all the way through to the community setting, supporting patients with long term rehabilitation needs.’

She adds that the network is continuing to work with key stakeholders to produce and endorse essential guidelines in relation to Covid-19.

‘It has been an absolute privilege to represent the respiratory physiotherapy profession during a global pandemic, and I’m really proud to be part of such a proactive network and am excited to see what the future holds.’ 


AGILE is for therapists working with older people and is open to qualified physiotherapists, assistants, students, and associate members of an allied profession. It has 1,122 members.

Initially it aimed to promote high standards of physiotherapy with older people through education, communication, research, and support. But it now has multiple purposes, including the exchange of ideas and information, to improve interdisciplinary communication and understanding for the benefit of older people, to contribute to any appropriate project concerned with the well-being of older people and encourage research.

AGILE chair Sarah De Biase says membership brings many benefits including a bi-annual journal Agility, funding for courses (after two consecutive years membership), research bursaries and improvement projects, a suite of training and education opportunities, and discounted rates for events and conferences.

During the pandemic AGILE developed an older people-specific resource area online, and worked with the CSP to develop Covid-19 rehabilitation standards, and palliative care standards with the Association of Chartered Physiotherapists in Oncology and Palliative Care (ACPOPC).

‘We are currently composing our spring edition of Agility, with a theme around, “Physiotherapy, older people, Covid and I”,’ Sarah says.

‘It aims to provide a space for our members to share their experience of Covid-19 and how it has changed them, and enabled them to evolve as physiotherapists working and caring for older people in a complex health and care system.’

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