In perspective - A shared vision

Physiotherapy and social care staff can work together to improve care and promote wellbeing, says Sue Hayward-Giles

The social care system helps people to gain independence and gives them more choice and control in their lives.

Social workers can offer a range of services that provide practical and emotional support, meet individuals’ needs and aspirations and improve their wellbeing.

They also play a leading ‘safeguarding’ role for children and adults who may be socially excluded, at risk of abuse or neglect, or vulnerable for other reasons.  

Still current, across the UK, the 1990 Health and Community Care Act set out common parameters for social care provision.

As well as preventing deterioration in someone’s physical or mental health, social care fosters social inclusion, improves opportunities and life chances, and strengthens families.

In a recent advice note, The College of Social Work said their members ‘endorse and act in accordance with the principles of personalisation, ensuring that care and support are person-centred and as far as possible put the people with whom they work in control of their lives’.

It’s clear that the frameworks covering physiotherapy and social work have much in common.

Changing demographics are opening up new opportunities for physio staff in social settings.

Women now aged 65 can expect to live for another 21 years, while the figure for men is 19 years.

The number of people aged over 85 has doubled in the past three decades and, by 2030, one in person in five in England will be over 65.

Adult social care in the UK from 2012 to 2013 cost £19 billion and the increasing demand for effective and affordable care is recognised globally.

In response, policymakers are calling for the integration of health and social care. But there are barriers to be overcome locally in bringing services together, such as having separate funding streams.

There are also language and cultural differences – terms such as reablement, rehabilitation and intermediate care are used interchangeably – which create tension and confusion.

Perhaps the way forward is to recognise that we share a vision and a regulatory framework, and use this as a building block for future developments. Whether we deliver physiotherapy or social care, we all believe that services should be person-centred and designed to prevent ill health, promote wellbeing and build independence.

We all want people to achieve their potential and engage in society on an equal basis.

The rehabilitative approach of physiotherapists can enhance the quality of life of people with long-term conditions. By intervening early on and effectively, we can help people live independently and lessen the need for them to be admitted to care or nursing homes (thus bringing down costs).

Over coming months the CSP’s Physiotherapy Works programme will publish examples of good practice in this area. If you work in an integrated care service and can contribute contact us at

Sue Hayward-Giles is a CSP assistant director


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