In person: in the driving seat

Who really runs the CSP, asks chief exec Karen Middleton.

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One of the best parts of my job is spending time with members. What I like most is having a coffee and just chewing the fat on all matters physiotherapy. I often get into conversations about how the CSP works. ‘Who is the CSP?’ is a frequent question.
 
Over the past few months, there has been a lot of information for members about the CSP’s governance in terms of our governing body or council and the various committees. That’s because of the governance proposals that went to the annual general meeting and were passed (www.csp.org.uk/node/1117501). 
 
The CSP operation, however, is quite a different matter. I am accountable to council through the chair of council and I discharge my duties through my leadership team (the directors) and their staff. My job is to deliver the strategy as set down by council and operationalise it. In doing so, I have a leadership role with the membership and our key stakeholders externally, but I also run the internal operation. So who are they?
 
Well, the first misconception is that most CSP staff members are physiotherapists. In fact, at the time of writing, I lead a staff of 139 and 24 of them are registered physiotherapists (including me). The majority of CSP staff are experts in their own field outside of physiotherapy practice or education. We have design experts, policy experts, communications experts, trade union negotiators, trainers, finance experts, press experts, journalists, human resources and organisational development, marketing experts and facilities and information and communications technology experts and many more. This expertise is in part there to inform our work on behalf of members but some of it is also there to simply run an organisation – as you would expect.
 
Of course, we do have a range of physiotherapy expertise too but it is less about expertise in a particular clinical field and more about expertise in education and development, research, clinical leadership and management, the scope of practice and how to harness the expertise of the membership.
 
We have four office bases – Bedford Row in London, which most people are aware of, and offices in Cardiff, Edinburgh and Belfast. A number of staff are based at home, the largest cohort being our senior negotiating officers, who deal with employment-related issues. This makes sense given they are more accessible to members right across the UK.
 
So, the CSP is a diverse organisation with a range of expertise to serve the membership. It means that we can provide insight and intelligence to inform council and its strategic decision-making. It also means we can provide expertise alongside members’ local or clinical knowledge to be more impactful in our national and local influencing. Collaboration between staff and members is when we are at our strongest.
 
That said, there can be tensions. As physiotherapists, we may feel we are the experts in all matters regarding our profession. But it may be really important to listen to those with specific technical expertise about how to get that message across. Technical expertise in a particular field can be really helpful, advising on the right time to promote a particular issue, or when it’s best to keep quiet because it might jeopardise a sensitive relationship with a stakeholder.
 
Ultimately, while CSP staff and I can inform all we like, it is your elected council that makes the final decision. 
 
I was a member of the CSP for more than 30 years before becoming its chief executive four years ago. I had no idea about the diverse talent that is here.  My job has been to maximise the potential of that talent, to make sure we are delivering what the membership needs and are fit for purpose going forward.
 
Author
Karen Middleton Chief Executive Officer CSP

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