After responsibility for public health in England moved to local councils, Philip Hulse decided to contact his local public health team
Q You work in a hospital. Why did you see public health as being relevant to you?
I have always taken public health to be part of my remit as a physiotherapist to improve the health and wellbeing of my patients. Now that local councils have responsibility for public health there is an opportunity to engage with individuals who work in health but outside the NHS. I saw an advertisement on the Shropshire council website for a ‘healthy eating event’ in Shrewsbury. The event gave me the ‘in’, so to speak, and I went along with an executive from my trust.
Q What came out of this?
I listened to presentations from the Shropshire public health team and spoke to individuals over lunch. I followed this up with emails and phone calls which resulted in a meeting to discuss their involvement in a study day for physiotherapists.
Three members of their team – the director of preventive health programmes and the leads on obesity and activity referrals – are all taking part.
I have also invited the team to visit my department, and hope to highlight two areas of physiotherapy practice – women’s health and vestibular rehabilitation.
Q How did your manager react?
You may encounter some resistance from line managers, so getting their buy-in is vital to your engagement. My manager, Karin Howorth, and the trust have been very supportive.
I am also working with the professional practice lead at Shropshire clinical commissioning group – Nina White, a physio.
Q What did you learn from the experience?
I thought that I knew most health workers in Shropshire, but of the 120 attending the healthy eating event only 10 were from the NHS.
I put physiotherapy forward as a solution to their problems. I explained that physiotherapy enables lifestyle change, often intervening at a point when individuals are most susceptible to change following an interruption to their normal life (such as post-surgery or trauma or major illness).
Q What tips would you give others?
My advice is to listen to the public health leads on obesity and activity referral and present physio as a solution. Local authorities are going through even more significant changes than the NHS.
If you can be positive, enthusiastic and passionate about the shared issues of public health and physiotherapy, the public health team will want to engage.
Look at the Public Health England and local public health websites before your meeting. Also, contact local councillors with the public health and health and social care portfolios. I learnt that an awareness of the breadth of physiotherapy practice was not what we might assume among members of the wider health community.
Q What would you say to members who want to get involved in public health?
Don’t wait to be invited to an event or for the phone to ring.
The CSP has created resources that will help members to engage with their public health colleagues that are available on the CSP website I used the Get to Grips documents (www.csp.org.uk/publications/get-grips-englands-new-health-system) and gave a set of the Physiotherapy works documents to the public health team.
We need to put ourselves about a bit and be a little braver about telling people what we do and how.
Q Can the CSP and regional networks do more to help members with this?
My involvement with the West Midlands regional network and our local public health ‘champion’ helped raise my awareness and created the impetus for me to act.
The networks can also provide encouragement for CSP members to get out there and be champions for physiotherapy. Physiotherapy is the cost-effective solution to many of the challenges we face.
This new public health agenda provides an excellent opportunity for physiotherapy, but only if we grasp it and don’t wait for it to land in our laps (as it won’t).
Q Talking about public health, how do you look after your own wellbeing?
I try and maintain a healthy lifestyle. I feel we have to make an effort to at least look as if we are practising what we preach.
This is definitely the case in my team – although our weekly cake club might test resolve and waistbands! fl
Philip Hulse is a physio in Shropshire, a member of the West Midlands regional network and a CSP Council member
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