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Practice based learning must be championed

The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy recently held a conference in collaboration with King’s College London, Brunel University London, Kingston & St George’s University and the University of East London to highlight their innovative templates for student placements in musculoskeletal physiotherapy.

Productivity, quality and legacy were the key themes of the event, which took place last Thursday in Holborn, London. 

The first keynote was by Gwyn Owen, Professional Advisor at CSP. She highlighted the imminent need for change in the context of practice, encouraging the room of 50 delegates to take a closer look at their current templates and to find ways to rethink and reshuffle, citing “critical conversations between trusts,” as vital. 

The panel, made up of university academics and physiotherapy practitioners and consultants from various London NHS trusts and private practice (Connect Health) took part in a ‘Speed Dating’ exercise. Each table of delegates, facilitated by a representative from each of the higher education institutions, had the chance to ask questions.

Amongst the panel was Mike Mansfield from Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, who emphasised the importance of a tailored approach to students. “An individual’s learning needs should be planned for and student passports must be taken into account pre-placement, it’s about negotiation, preparation and organisation.” He believes this approach can and will increase the student to clinician ratio.

The closing address came from Karen Middleton, Chief Executive Officer at the CSP. She acknowledged that heavy workloads do make it difficult to find the time to accommodate students, but stresses their importance, “They are vital to our trade and right now supply isn’t meeting demand. Physiotherapy has repeatedly proved itself as value for money to the NHS, taking pressures off A&E departments and dramatically preventing falls. We have a responsibility to train, encourage and influence our students who will become the future of our profession, if we don’t we are at risk of becoming obsolete.”  

With NHS bursaries for undergraduate physiotherapy courses being axed this academic year, it’s uncertain times for physiotherapy, however Karen believes this to be, “A real opportunity to increase supply, we must champion practice based learning as a campaign, and it’s all down to us. The value of collaboration is in everybody’s best interests.”