The standards of proficiency for physiotherapists
You must meet all the standards of proficiency to register with us and meet the standards relevant to your scope of practice to stay registered with us. It is important that you read and understand this document.
If your practice is called into question we will consider these standards (and our standards of conduct, performance and ethics) in deciding what action, if any, we need to take.
The standards set out in this document complement information and guidance issued by other organisations, such as your professional body or your employer.
We recognise the valuable role played by professional bodies in providing guidance and advice about good practice which can help you to meet the standards in this document
Your scope of practice is the area or areas of your profession in which you have the knowledge, skills and experience to practise lawfully, safely and effectively, in a way that meets our standards and does not pose any danger to the public or to yourself.
We recognise that a registrant’s scope of practice will change over time and that the practice of experienced registrants often becomes more focused and specialised than that of newly registered colleagues. This might be because of specialisation in a certain area or with a particular client group, or a movement into roles in management, education or research.
Every time you renew your registration, you will be asked to sign a declaration that you continue to meet the standards of proficiency that apply to your scope of practice.
Your particular scope of practice may mean that you are unable to continue to demonstrate that you meet all of the standards that apply for the whole of your profession.
As long as you make sure that you are practising safely and effectively within your given scope of practice and do not practise in the areas where you are not proficient to do so, this will not be a problem. If you want to move outside of your scope of practice, you should be certain that you are capable of working lawfully, safely and effectively. This means that you need to exercise personal judgement by undertaking any necessary training or gaining experience, before moving into a new area of practice.
It is important that you meet our standards and are able to practise lawfully, safely and effectively. However, we do not dictate how you should meet our standards. There is normally more than one way in which each standard can be met and the way in which you meet our standards might change over time because of improvements in technology or changes in your practice.
We often receive questions from registrants who are concerned that something they have been asked to do, a policy, or the way in which they work might mean they cannot meet our standards. They are often worried that this might have an effect on their registration.
As an autonomous professional, you need to make informed, reasoned decisions about your practice to ensure that you meet the standards that apply to you. This includes seeking advice and support from education providers, employers, colleagues, professional bodies, unions and others to ensure that the wellbeing of service users is safeguarded at all times. So long as you do this and can justify your decisions if asked to, it is very unlikely that you will not meet our standards.
We recognise that our registrants work in a range of different settings, which include direct practice, management, education, research and roles in industry. We also recognise that the use of terminology can be an emotive issue.
Our registrants work with very different people and use different terms to describe the groups that use, or are affected by, their services. Some of our registrants work with patients, others with clients and others with service users. The terms that you use will depend on how and where you work. We have used terms in these standards which we believe best reflect the groups that you work with.
In the standards of proficiency, we use phrases such as ‘understand’, ‘know’, and ‘be able to’. This is so the standards remain applicable to current registrants in maintaining their fitness
to practise, as well as prospective registrants who have not yet started practising and are applying for registration for the first time.
These standards may change in the future We have produced these standards after speaking to our stakeholders and holding a formal public consultation. We will continue to listen to our stakeholders and will keep our standards under continual review. Therefore, we may make further changes in the future to take into account changes in practice.
We will always publicise any changes to the standards that we make by, for instance, publishing notices on our website and informing professional bodies.
We also expect you to keep to our standards of conduct, performance and ethics and standards for continuing professional development. We publish these in separate documents, which you can find on our website.
Registrant physiotherapists must:
1.1 know the limits of their practice and when to seek advice or refer to another professional
1.2 recognise the need to manage their own workload and resources effectively and be able to practise accordingly
2.1 understand the need to act in the best interests of service users at all times
2.2 understand what is required of them by the Health and Care Professions Council
2.3 understand the need to respect and uphold the rights, dignity, values, and autonomy of service users including their role in the diagnostic and therapeutic process and in maintaining health and wellbeing
2.4 recognise that relationships with service users should be based on mutual respect and trust, and be able to maintain high standards of care even in situations of personal incompatibility
2.5 know about current legislation applicable to the work of their profession
2.6 understand the importance of and be able to obtain informed consent
2.7 be able to exercise a professional duty of care
3.1 understand the need to maintain high standards of personal and professional conduct
3.2 understand the importance of maintaining their own health
3.3 understand both the need to keep skills and knowledge up to date and the importance of career-long learning
4.1 be able to assess a professional situation, determine the nature and severity of the problem and call upon the required knowledge and experience to deal with the problem
4.2 be able to make reasoned decisions to initiate, continue, modify or cease techniques or procedures, and record the decisions and reasoning appropriately
4.3 be able to initiate resolution of problems and be able to exercise personal initiative
4.4 recognise that they are personally responsible for and must be able to justify their decisions
4.5 be able to make and receive appropriate referrals
4.6 understand the importance of participation in training, supervision and mentoring
5.1 understand the requirement to adapt practice to meet the needs of different groups and individuals
5.2 be able to recognise the need to identify and take account of the physical, psychological, social and cultural needs of individuals and communities
7.1 be aware of the limits of the concept of confidentiality
7.2 understand the principles of information governance and be aware of the safe and effective use of health and social care information
7.3 be able to recognise and respond appropriately to situations where it is necessary to share information to safeguard service users or the wider public
8.1 be able to demonstrate effective and appropriate verbal and non-verbal skills in communicating information, advice, instruction and professional opinion to service users, colleagues and others
8.2 be able to communicate in English to the standard equivalent to level 7 of the International English Language Testing System, with no element below 6.5 *
8.3 understand how communication skills affect assessment and engagement of service users and how the means of communication should be modified to address and take account of factors such as age, capacity, learning ability and physical ability
8.4 be able to select, move between and use appropriate forms of verbal and non-verbal communication with service users and others
8.5 be aware of the characteristics and consequences of verbal and non-verbal communication and how this can be affected by factors such as age, culture, ethnicity, gender, socio-economic status and spiritual or religious beliefs
8.6 understand the need to provide service users or people acting on their behalf with the information necessary to enable them to make informed decisions
8.7 understand the need to assist the communication needs of service users such as through the use of an appropriate interpreter, wherever possible
8.8 recognise the need to use interpersonal skills to encourage the active participation of service users
* The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) tests competence in the English language. Applicants who have qualified outside of the UK, whose first language is not English and who are not nationals of Switzerland, must provide evidence that they have reached the necessary standard. Please visit our website for more information.
9.1 be able to work, where appropriate, in partnership with service users, other professionals, support staff and others
9.2 understand the need to build and sustain professional relationships as both an independent practitioner and collaboratively as a member of a team
9.3 understand the need to engage service users and carers in planning and evaluating diagnostics, and therapeutic interventions to meet their needs and goals
9.4 be able to contribute effectively to work undertaken as part of a multi-disciplinary team
9.5 understand the need to agree the goals, priorities and methods of physiotherapy intervention in partnership with the service user
10.1 be able to keep accurate, comprehensive and comprehensible records in accordance with applicable legislation, protocols and guidelines
10.2 recognise the need to manage records and all other information in accordance with applicable legislation, protocols and guidelines
11.1 understand the value of reflection on practice and the need to record the outcome of such reflection
11.2 recognise the value of case conferences and other methods of review
12.1 be able to engage in evidence-based practice, evaluate practice systematically and participate in audit procedures
12.2 be able to gather information, including qualitative and quantitative data, that helps to evaluate the responses of service users to their care
12.3 be aware of the role of audit and review in quality management, including quality control, quality assurance and the use of appropriate outcome measures
12.4 be able to maintain an effective audit trail and work towards continual improvement
12.5 be aware of, and be able to participate in, quality assurance programmes, where appropriate
12.6 be able to evaluate intervention plans using recognised outcome measures and revise the plans as necessary in conjunction with the service user
12.7 recognise the need to monitor and evaluate the quality of practice and the value of contributing to the generation of data for quality assurance and improvement programmes
12.8 be able to evaluate intervention plans to ensure that they meet the physiotherapy needs of service users, informed by changes in circumstances and health status
13.1 recognise the role of other professions in health and social care
13.2 be aware of the principles and applications of scientific enquiry, including the evaluation of the efficacy of interventions and the research process
13.3 understand the concept of leadership and its application to practice
13.4 understand the structure and function of the human body, together with knowledge of health, disease, disorder and dysfunction, relevant to their profession
13.5 understand the theoretical basis of, and the variety of approaches to, assessment and intervention
13.6 understand the following aspects of biological science:
– normal human anatomy and physiology, including the dynamic relationships of human structure and function as related to the neuromuscular, musculoskeletal, cardio-vascular and respiratory systems
– patterns of human growth and development across the lifespan
– factors influencing individual variations in human ability and health status
– how the application of physiotherapy can cause physiological and structural change
13.7 understand the following aspects of physical science:
– the principles and theories from physics, biomechanics, applied exercise science and ergonomics that can be applied to physiotherapy
– the means by which the physical sciences can inform the understanding and analysis of movement and function
– the principles and application of measurement techniques based on biomechanics or electrophysiology
– the application of anthropometric and ergonomic principles
13.8 understand the following aspects of clinical science:
– pathological changes and related clinical features commonly encountered in physiotherapy practice
– physiological, structural, behavioural and functional changes that can result from physiotherapy intervention and disease progression
– the specific contribution that physiotherapy can potentially make to enhancing individuals’ functional ability, together with the evidence base for this
– the different concepts and approaches that inform the development of physiotherapy intervention
13.9 understand the following aspects of behavioural science:
– psychological, social and cultural factors that influence an individual in health and illness, including their responses to the management of their health status and related physiotherapy interventions
– how psychology, sociology and cultural diversity inform an understanding of health, illness and health care in the context of physiotherapy and the incorporation of this knowledge into physiotherapy practice
– theories of communication relevant to effective interaction with service users, carers, colleagues, managers and other health and social care professionals
– theories of team working
14.1 understand the structure and function of health and social care services in the UK
14.2 be able to deliver and evaluate physiotherapy programmes
14.3 be able to gather appropriate information
14.4 be able to select and use appropriate assessment techniques
14.5 be able to undertake and record a thorough, sensitive and detailed assessment, using appropriate techniques and equipment
14.6 be able to undertake or arrange investigations as appropriate
14.7 be able to analyse and critically evaluate the information collected
14.8 be able to form a diagnosis on the basis of physiotherapy assessment
14.9 be able to demonstrate a logical and systematic approach to problem solving
14.10 be able to use research, reasoning and problem solving skills to determine appropriate actions
14.11 be able to formulate specific and appropriate management plans including the setting of timescales
14.12 be able to apply problem solving and clinical reasoning to assessment findings to plan and prioritise appropriate physiotherapy
14.13 recognise the need to discuss, and be able to explain the rationale for, the use of physiotherapy interventions
14.14 be able to set goals and construct specific individual and group physiotherapy programmes
14.15 be able to conduct appropriate diagnostic or monitoring procedures, interventions, therapy, or other actions safely and effectively
14.16 be able to select, plan, implement and manage physiotherapy interventions aimed at the facilitation and restoration of movement and function
14.17 know how to position or immobilise service users for safe and effective interventions
14.18 be able to select and apply safe and effective physiotherapy specific practice skills including manual therapy, exercise and movement, electrotherapeutic modalities and kindred approaches
14.19 be able to change their practice as needed to take account of new developments or changing contexts
14.20 recognise the value of research to the critical evaluation of practice
14.21 be aware of a range of research methodologies
14.22 be able to evaluate research and other evidence to inform their own practice
14.23 be able to use information and communication technologies appropriate to their practice
15.1 understand the need to maintain the safety of both service users and those involved in their care
15.2 know and be able to apply appropriate moving and handling techniques
15.3 be aware of applicable health and safety legislation, and any relevant safety policies and procedures in force at the workplace, such as incident reporting and be able to act in accordance with these
15.4 be able to work safely, including being able to select appropriate hazard control and risk management, reduction or elimination techniques in a safe manner and in accordance with health and safety legislation
15.5 be able to select appropriate personal protective equipment and use it correctly
15.6 be able to establish safe environments for practice, which minimise risks to service users, those treating them and others, including the use of hazard control and particularly infection control
These standards are effective from Tuesday 28 May 2013.
Reviewing the standards of proficiency
We keep our standards under continual review, to look at how they are working and check whether they continue to reflect current practice. We also conduct a periodic review of the standards every five years.
In August 2022, we updated our standards of proficiency for the first time since 2015. The changes, which will come into effect on 1 September 2023, have been made following an extensive period of engagement with a wide range of stakeholders.
We will provide a host of resources and activities which will assist different stakeholder groups prepare ahead of the implementation date.
The revised standards set clear expectations of registrants’ knowledge and ability in a healthcare landscape which has changed and evolved in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Updating them is a crucial component in fulfilling our purpose to promote excellence in the professions we regulate, and championing high quality care that the public can access safely and with confidence.