This FAQ will support physiotherapists considering applying for a first contact physiotherapy (FCP) post in primary care in England, although many of the principles apply UK-wide.
Questions to ask yourself - personal capability
Do I understand the FCP role?
Be really clear that you understand the FCP role and the differences between this and other MSK physiotherapy roles. Look at the CSP resources describing FCP services and FCP roles. Speak with FCPs in your local area. Consider shadowing an FCP in clinic if possible (see CSP Career Guide for more advice).
Do I have the experience, knowledge, skills and attributes required for the role?
As an FCP, you will be dealing with high levels of complexity and uncertainty in an undifferentiated caseload. To work safely and effectively in this role, you must have significant post-graduate broad and MSK experience. You must be working at an advanced level of practice in the clinical pillar as a minimum. This is reflected in the requirements of Health Education England’s MSK Roadmap to Practice for FCP/AP. In England, CQC have now stipulated that stage 1 of the roadmap should be completed with a signed off portfolio of evidence before employment in primary care. Stage 2 is completed when working in primary care. This should be within six months for those in full-time equivalent FCP roles or longer if the employer and commissioner agree. You should ensure you will have allocated time, support and appropriate supervision from your employer to do this. Assessment for these stages is at academic level 7 (MSc level). FCPs already in post should complete this retrospectively. See the Roadmap landing page for the latest guidance.
It is your responsibility to understand and be able to demonstrate the required capabilities in line with your HCPC registration requirements.
Questions about the role – terms and conditions
Who will be my employer?
The CSP, BMA and RCGP recommend that to support the development of an integrated MSK pathway, FCPs are employed within existing NHS MSK services such as the local community provider. This ensures access to professional and peer support, integration of services across the pathway and increased flexibility for provision of the service.
FCPS can also be employed by an independent provider, directly employed within primary care or be self-employed. You should be clear who your employer will be and how this might affect different aspects of the role, detailed below.
What pay band is the FCP role being advertised at?
FCP roles should be recruited at Agenda for Change Band 7/8a or equivalent. Standardised job descriptions that demonstrate the differences between the roles are available here.
Will I be on Agenda for Change (AfC) terms and conditions in the role?
This depends on who the employer is. The majority of NHS providers will offer AfC but we would suggest you confirm this. If the GP practice/PCN or private employer are directly employing you then you will need to discuss this with them. There is no guarantee an employer will offer you AfC terms and conditions. If you will not be on AfC terms and conditions you will need to consider the following;
- Pension (some employment models are likely to give access to NHS Pension, but some may not so you should check when agreeing contract details)
- Annual Leave allowance
- Travel time/expenses
- Funding for training etc.
- Sickness and absence allowance
- Maternity/paternity/shared parental leave
- Policies such as Sickness Absence, Maternity Leave, Capability and Disciplinary etc.
It is advisable to compare against AfC Terms and Conditions to ensure that all policies and processes in place and to check for any differences.
Will I get an annual increment or pay rise?
This depends on your contract. If you are on an AfC contract you should receive this as per Agenda for Change (worth confirming prior to appointment). If you are not on an AfC contract then you may not, so you will need to negotiate as part of your original contract or regularly negotiate directly with your employer e.g. annually.
Questions about the FCP service you are looking to join
How does the FCP service operate?
Find out more about the FCP model in operation. How does the service integrate into the whole MSK pathway? What links are there with the local MSK provider? If there aren’t existing relationships, will you have the support from your employer to develop them? Where will you be based? What support will be offered to ensure you are embedded within the primary care team and develop/maintain connections with wider services? These are key factors to the effective and sustainable implementation of FCP services, evidenced by the national Phase 3 evaluation.
What does a typical job plan look like for an FCP in that service?
Job planning is an important element of a role. Be clear on what your job plan may look like, including the length of your appointments (a minimum of 20 minutes but reflective of FCP experience and local population need), any virtual delivery component, non-patient facing time etc. Find out about what the governance structure looks like. What are the supervision arrangements and what capability do the supervisors have? Supervision is a core part of all roles but it should be commensurate with your level of experience.
What prospective CPD opportunities are there?
Enquire how your prospective employer will support your clinical development including time and funding. What multi-professional training will be offered from within the practice? Will there be opportunities for you to contribute to multi-professional supervision? Is there potential support for further post-graduate study e.g. non-medical prescribing courses? Will you be able to access profession-specific MSK in-service training? Find out about how you will be supported to develop across all the advanced pillars of practice.
How will I be supported to access peer support?
Access to professional peer support is important when working as an FCP, especially if this is your sole role. A number of FCP peer networks are in existence across the UK. Information on how to engage with or set up a peer support network can be found here. You can also contact your regional CSP team via our Enquiries service.