Is the CSP’s anti-austerity campaign leading the profession down an ideological blind alley ?

I have a letter published in the latest edition of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapist’s Frontline magazine.

The letter requests a follow up article and in depth analysis of how a NHS team at St Mary’s Community Health Campus, Portsmouth managed to reduce their physiotherapy waiting times from 12 weeks to 2 weeks by working longer, ‘harder and smarter’. This story first appeared in 23 January 2013 edition of Frontline on page 14 under the heading ‘Physio team rewarded for smarter approach’. Their transformation appears to be a simple one – realising their service will come under intense competition in the new health market they made their service more accessible by opening from 7:30am to 6:30pm and will introduce appointments for Saturday mornings.
I have spent 20 years reading Frontline and I have been given the impression that long waiting lists were due to chronic underspending by successive governments. Clearly this may not be the case. So why was there no follow up report to gain an in depth analysis of how this was achieved and pass on these findings to other NHS organisations as a template to surviving in the new health market ?

It would be nice to think this was simply an oversight by the CSP – failing to spot the significance of such a story. However, I think there are darker forces at work. Over the last two years I feel the CSP has become increasingly politicised. You cannot pick up a Frontline these days without a mention of UNITE or the TUC. There is a call to action to attend anti austerity rallies, blogs by CSP directors offering feint hopes that political change will reverse NHS reforms. They address mainly their NHS members and tend to ignore the good work carried out by physiotherapists working in the private sector. In short they continue to expend energy on battles lost and in doing so are casting themselves further adrift from the changes and realities that are effecting the profession and the NHS today. There is no immediate white knight to rescue them. Ed Milliband announced recently that if Labour win the next election they would not reverse the austerity measures taken by the coalition. The problem for the CSP is that it has no Plan B. Their political and ideological beliefs are deeply entrenched and therefore they are unable to embrace reform with conviction. They risk becoming increasingly irrelevant to their membership.

So what steps should the CSP take ?

Firstly it must accept the new health reforms. The clock will not be turned back. It is happening. It needs to let go of those who so aggressively opposed the NHS bill and look amongst its ranks for reformers – those that see the merits of competition in the health market and have a confidence that a trusted, integrated NHS can take on private providers. It needs to distance itself from its friends in the unions and start engaging with colleagues in the private sector. It will need to accept that in this modern time survival of any business or service is not a given right but one that is earned by providing services that are accessible, innovative and offer a high quality of care. It will need to widen its relevance and appeal to physiotherapists working in the private sector for these will take up a greater proportion of the membership in coming years. It will have to let go of the belief that members need to be protected but instead guide them on a path to provide better, more effective and innovative services where the ‘client is king’. It will need to communicate the harsh reality that survival means working longer, harder and smarter.

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