“What if?”

What if we could better work together across physiotherapy sectors and specialties whilst striving for our common goal of excellent patient care? What if we all acknowledged others’ expertise whilst respecting the differences we all bring? What if we could build on all our learning and move forward as one profession?

What if

The ongoing pandemic continues to be the biggest challenge that physiotherapy has faced in living memory. It impacts on all settings and sectors, with an exhausted workforce and huge numbers of patients in desperate need. Our profession has risen to the challenge and accepted the invitation to think differently, but what now? How do we move forward?

No matter what sector you work in, take a step back…and then another. Try to remove yourself from your practice setting to a place where you can view the profession as a whole. 

One profession

What if we all stopped to consider our professional biases? To take the time to challenge our perceptions of fellow physiotherapists who choose to work somewhere different to us. They may work in the NHS, the independent sector or possibly the third sector. 

Let’s remember that on graduating, all physiotherapists meet the same standards and have been through the same rigorous training. 

Could we accept that no matter where we work, we all need each other? Recognising that it is in fact our differences that actually make any collective work so much more powerful than working alone. Ultimately, can we agree that we all have important parts to play in patient care and in doing so overcome some perceptions such as those in the NHS ‘just give out exercise sheets’ and those in private practice ‘always over treat’? 

In reality, neither are true. One is not better than the other, they are simply different. 

Patient-centred care

What if we worked to break down barriers between sectors to make physiotherapy work better for patients? To place them at the core of their management and truly embed patient choice. Patients do have a right to choose where they seek treatment but certain sectors may be less accessible to some than others. Do they meet specific referral criteria? Can they access the premises? Can they attend within opening hours? Can they afford to pay? What suits one may not suit another. Many factors, both within and outside of a person’s control, will inform patient choice.

But could we better work together, with the evidence base common to our profession, for the benefit of our patients? If a patient is facing a lengthy wait for treatment, why not let them know about physiotherapy colleagues in other sectors? In doing so, supporting people to make decisions that are right for them.  What if we could do this without prejudice that ‘one is better than the other’ or pre-empting any thoughts on what the care would be like to the patient, potentially setting them up to fail and affecting the general population’s perception of our profession?

Early signposting to alternate means of physiotherapy provision may help to save considerable suffering for the patient and time for the NHS. 

Yes, in some cases this may result in patients seeking and receiving concurrent treatment in different sectors simultaneously. Surely that’s a positive outcome? Our profession should celebrate our ability to work seamlessly to ensure that patients meets their goals in a timely manner. After all, if it doesn’t work for patients, it simply doesn’t work.  

A community of practice 

What if we shared better? This starts with effective communication but goes much further to include the sharing of knowledge, facilities and even resources. Could we develop a true community of physiotherapy practice in a local area whereby all physiotherapists could benefit the health of its population? Could we work together at in-service trainings or support each other clinically and systematically to remove the real or perceived barriers that exist between sectors? 

Can we aim for mutual respect, to learn to trust each other and to work together for the good of our communities?  

For some this concept has been made a reality. We are hearing of localities where physiotherapists have come together to work towards achieving common patient goals; helping to bridge the divide between sectors for the benefit of patients and the reputation of the profession.

But what if we all did this? What if? 

  • Written by CSP professional advisers Sara Conroy and Tamsin Baird 

Come along and explore this topic further! Physio First chairman Karen Lay and Jack Chew are chairing a focus symposium Bridging the Divide at vPUK on 6 November at 12.45pm.


Virtual Physiotherapy UK 2021 

Physiotherapy UK 2021 will be a virtual event, using a cutting-edge, avatar-based platform to recreate the energy of a live, in-person event.

Taking place 5 and 6 November, the conference will enable you to:

  • Hear and see the latest research and clinical practice, from peer-reviewed presentations to invited speakers
  • Learn about a wide range of products and services in our trade exhibition
  • Meet up with old friends and colleagues, and make new contacts too.
  • More information visit the vPUK website here

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