What travel can teach us

Karen Middleton considers the advantages of travel and the experiences that can be gained and shared when meeting fellow professionals.

Karen Middleton CSP's Chief Executive Officer

A few weeks ago I went to the World Confederation of Physical Therapy (WCPT) general meeting in Geneva as part of the CSP delegation. Travelling, whether internationally or into the next county, is an opportunity to learn and also a chance to reflect on what you do in your part of the world: your service, how you operate, and the health and care system at large.

My travelling, whether for work or pleasure, always reminds me how lucky we are to have a NHS with healthcare free at the point of care and not based on ability to pay. While there are different funding arrangements and service approaches, it was clear in Geneva that the physiotherapy profession across the world shares many of the same challenges: serving an older population with multiple long-term conditions and shifting to a preventative approach where physical activity is critical.

We are privileged in the UK to be working as physiotherapists with clinical autonomy. It isn’t until you hear the experiences across the globe that you learn what it is like to practice without that autonomy.

First contact physiotherapy (FCP) in primary care is being rolled out across the UK, it is a fantastic opportunity but I appreciate it presents challenges. I realised in Geneva that this work is the envy of the world, not only because of what it can deliver for patients, but also because of what it says about physiotherapy. As the Australians put it: it is one of the best marketing tools ever.

When talking about FCP, I often get asked about the risk of physios in these roles losing their rehab skills. The preferred operating model prevents this, of course. And our strong focus on rehabilitation - particularly in the community – should also help. I have long argued that our autonomy and expertise is best exemplified when providing community rehabilitation and we have learnt a great deal from the models of delivery, particularly in the Nordic countries. 

The other CSP campaign (which you will read all about in our special supplement) that was of great interest in Geneva is Love activity. We were described as being light years ahead in our message of focusing on activity rather than exercise. 

Of course, everyone appreciated that exercise remains a critical part of the physiotherapist’s tool box, but they could see that winning the hearts and minds of those who don’t enjoy exercise or those who have a long-term condition requires a different approach. 

With demand outstripping supply across the world, we have to work differently. Providing our expertise at the very beginning of a care pathway is critical, as is ensuring that rehabilitation is provided as a matter of course. Lastly, getting this nation moving through activity has to be what physiotherapy is. 

Number of subscribers: 1

Log in to comment and read comments that have been added