Find out why physiotherapists are turning to private practice.

August 20, 2023

Venturing into Private Practice?

Traditionally, physiotherapists would graduate from University and take up a Junior Physiotherapist post within the NHS. In recent years, therapists are defying this tradition and we will discuss why.

1. Lack of NHS Rotations

As a new graduate taking up a junior physiotherapist role in the NHS, this would traditionally have been a rotational position. Every 6 months (each trust varied slightly), the therapist would rotate onto a new team.Typical rotations would include musculoskeletal, rehabilitation, medicine, critical care. neurology, orthopaedics and community.As trusts have battled to get a grasp of their finances, there has been significant restructuring. For various reasons, many 'rotational posts' are now very limited in both numbers of jobs, and number of rotations. For example, a post may now include only musculoskeletal and community rotations, or only inpatient rotations.Physiotherapists would previously have seen significant value in gaining a broad range of experience before moving up into a senior position. With these opportunities becoming more limited, therapists are no longer seeing the value and necessity of NHS experience.Physiotherapists are now finding the opportunities in private practice can be more influential to their professional development and careers.

2. Continuing Professional Development (CPD)

CPD is the continuing training and development of a therapists skills throughout their career. They are continually learning and developing, and remaining up to date with evidence and research.

A recent survey found 71% of therapists consider CPD opportunities to be the most valuable consideration when seeking jobs.

Although we cannot speak for all private practices, clinics such as Sports Physio UK are investing heavily into the CPD of their therapists.Here at Sports Physio UK, we have a weekly CPD schedule for the therapists. We cover different topics & modalities, and seek to diversify the skills of the team to enable them to treat the 'patient' rather than the 'symptoms'.Related Articles:CPD: Forearm, Wrist and HandAcupuncture & Dry Needling CPDShoulder Anatomy & Palpation CPDPelvis, Hip & Groin CPDKnee Anatomy & Palpation CPD

3. Rates of Pay

Physiotherapists were previously deterred from the safe blanket of the NHS salaries, however following 7 years of austerity these have become less lucrative.Junior Band 5 physiotherapists in the NHS now start on only £11.32/hr, with a Band 7 team leader starting on only £16.21/hr (2017/18 rates of pay).In comparison, a junior physiotherapist in private practice can earn in excess of £30/hr. They would however have to make their own allowances for pensions and annual leave.

4. Sick Pay

A junior physiotherapist in the NHS now only gets 1 month full pay, and 2 months half pay. This progressively increases annually, reaching a maximum of 6 months full pay, and 6 months half pay (NHS Handbook)In private practice, physiotherapists are often only covered by statutory sick pay (SSP) of only £89.35 for up to 28 weeks. Due to this, many will take out private Income Protection Policies.Here at Sports Physio UK, we encourage our therapists to take out Income Protection for added protection and peace of mind.

As an example, a policy with PG Mutual will cover a physiotherapist for £1,500/mth and pay out until they are 65. This is job specific, and would not be subject to re-deployment. The cost of this policy for a 30yr old, non-smoking male, is only £38.62/mth (PG Mutual, correct 15/09/17).

5. Job Satisfaction

Increasing numbers of NHS physiotherapists are finding they no longer feel they can offer patients the optimum treatment. One trust sparked outrage by openly banning physiotherapists from performing hands on treatments.Others are no longer as public about this, but physio's often find they are confined to service restrictions and an ethos which is very 'hands off' and does not promote hands-on treatment. Low staff morale in the NHS has been heavily reported by the trade unions and media.As an autonomous physiotherapist in private practice, you have the freedom to utilise whichever treatments and modalities you feel would be effective for that patient. Most private practice owners will not dictate which treatments you can and cannot do. This allows the therapist to work within their scope of practice, and to do everything they can for the patient, and reap the satisfaction from doing so.

6. Career Progression

In private practice, there is a logical career progression:

  1. Junior Therapist
  2. Senior Therapist
  3. Lead Therapist
  4. Practice Owner
  5. Multi-Practice Owner

The millennial mindset of the new graduates is no longer to work for the same hospital for 20+ years, it is now to keep progressing and seeking new opportunities.

As millennials ourselves here at Sports Physio UK, we embraced this with our business model because we allow therapists to progress up from a junior therapist, through to owning one of our clinics, and even opening multiple clinics of their own. Read More

In Summary

We have explored some of the various reasons for physiotherapists venturing into private practice. Obviously every NHS service, and every private practice is not the same. CPD opportunities and job satisfaction will vary, and we do not claim that every private practice is better than every NHS service. Let us know your own personal thoughts on these topics below.

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