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A Right Royal Charter

Love it or hate it, agree or disagree, you cannot deny that Physiotherapy is in a state of flux (I discussed this in a previous blog here)

Of course, as a science based profession, this is how things should be. More questions than answers, always moving forwards, forever a journey, never a destination.

However, clinicians aren’t white-coated lab-based scientists. They operate amongst real world chaos. Subjects present with a host of uncontrollable variables and Physiotherapists need to balance unbiased, objective professionalism with being human.

This is hard to do, and even harder to quantify. And herein lies the problem. What does a truly excellent Physiotherapist look like? How do we recognise them? How do we champion the good, call out the bad and wake up the indifferent? (I wrote about my own experience of Physio Apathy here).

How do we establish standards against the backdrop of an ever-shifting landscape?

The CSP claims that if you ‘see a Chartered Physiotherapist, you can be confident of their knowledge and skills’.

But is this the case? Does our Chartered title guarantee quality care in line with the current evidence base?

Does receiving membership on graduation mean that we emerge from University, fully formed professionals despite minimal clinical experience?

If qualification was gained more than 20 years ago, can you be certain that those skills and knowledge are still relevant?

Well as all good Physios know, to see where you’re going, you have to first understand where you started.

The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy began life as ‘The Society of Trained Masseuses’ in 1884, established by a group of nurses, in order to distinguish themselves from prostitutes and criminals who were using ‘massage’ as a cover for illicit services.

In 1900, the society acquired the legal and public status of a professional organisation, and on the 11 of June 1920, was granted a Royal Charter by King George the V, under the new name of the Chartered Society of Massage and Remedial Gymnasts. The current name was adopted in 1944.

The standards for chartered titles in the UK are set between the professional bodies and the relevant government departments. For many, the competencies necessary for chartered status are gained after a period of initial post -graduate professional development. For Physiotherapists however, it is awarded upon completion of academic qualification, and while continuing professional development is expected (and audited at random by the HCPC), the content and quality of development lacks any form of standardisation.

Now, no one is suggesting a rule of law. That just wouldn’t be science.

Excellence isn’t simply about the accumulation of knowledge, but the ability to think critically, to question, to challenge. A degree of conflict is inevitable, even necessary for progression. But if tradition is valued over evidence, if we tolerate the pseudoscience, we lose credibility.

With healthcare of ever diminishing resources, we need more and more to prove our worth. Gone are the days in which services are able to grumble along being ineffective and inefficient.

If standards aren’t set (and if those standards aren’t robust), we are left vulnerable and risk being deemed low value or worse, irrelevant by those commissioning services.

It’s almost 100 years since we were granted the Royal Charter, and while we no longer need concern ourselves with thieves or sex workers muddying our professional name, we face a much more insidious and worrying threat from within our ranks. Myths, make-believe and poor practice are the enemy of the day.

So what’s the solution? The standards of charter cannot be changed without government approval, but your opinion counts!

As we approach the centenary as a Chartered Society, is it time to review the rules?

Please click on the link below and complete our survey to share your thoughts.