Physiotherapists are qualified healthcare professionals who treat people suffering from a range of physical difficulties, pain and reduced mobility resulting from illnesses, injuries, disabilities and ageing. They typically provide treatment for sports injuries, post-surgery support and therapy to assist with the rehabilitation of patients who have suffered strokes.

Physiotherapy is a regulated profession, and it is illegal to practice under the title physiotherapist without being registered with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC). Once registered, a physiotherapist with sufficient practical experience can complete further training and qualifications to become a supplementary prescriber.

Most physiotherapists operate in private practice and typically also accept referrals from the NHS (referral letters are chargeable).

What qualifications and skills are required?

Physiotherapists must have completed a Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) approved degree course to be eligible for registration. Applicants must also meet HCPC standards of character, proficiency, conduct and performance, and provide declarations regarding any health conditions or previous civil or criminal convictions that could affect their fitness to practice.

Statutory registration

‘Physiotherapist’ is a professional title protected by statute. In order to practice in the UK, a physiotherapist must be registered with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC), and anyone who practices or promotes themselves as a physiotherapist without being registered is committing a criminal offence.

HCPC Standards

Physiotherapists registered with the HCPC must adhere to its six Standards covering Character; Health; Proficiency; Conduct, Performance and Ethics; Continuing Professional Development; and Education and Training.

The Standards require them to:

  • Act in the best interests of patients.
  • Obtain informed consent for treatment.
  • Keep professional skills and knowledge up to date.
  • Respect patient confidentiality and keep accurate records.

Private health insurance referrals

Some health insurers cover the costs of physiotherapy for patients holding private medical insurance. In some cases the patient pays the physiotherapist and requires a receipt to claim the money back from the insurer. In other cases, the physiotherapist applies to become a specialist provider for the insurer, which will pay the physiotherapist for treating patients.

Examples of health insurers providing medical insurance that covers physiotherapy include Bupa, PruHealth and Sovereign Healthcare