GP practices and PCNs are being urged to ensure the professional registration of their physiotherapists is up to date after reports that some have fallen off the register unknowingly.
The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy says up to 3,000 physiotherapists could remain affected by issues with renewal of registration through the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC).
A mass email sent out to those who needed to re-register went straight to junk mail in many cases, the CSP said, and added that communication with members had been ‘wholly insufficient’.
GPs have warned of lost appointments as physiotherapists working for the practice or PCN realised they were no longer registered.
But the HCPC said the vast majority of email reminders they had sent had been delivered and 91% of physiotherapists had renewed by the cut-off date which is only slightly down from the 94% seen previously. They added they would not expect everyone to renew as people retired or stopped practising.
In an update to members, Mr James said initially more than 5,300 physiotherapists dropped off the register. Of those, 2,400 have now re-registered but 30% are yet to be processed.
There are thousands more who may not even realise this has happened. Anyone who has fallen off the register needs to stop practising with immediate effect until the situation is remedied, he said.
Dr Laura Mount, a GP in Warrington and clinical director of Central and West Warrington PCN said two of the five first contact physiotherapists in their PCN had been affected.
One was able to get through to the HCPC on the phone and resolve the problem but the other, who also works two days for her practice, has now been waiting for eight days for her registration to be renewed and cannot work in the meantime.
‘They have stopped answering their phones so all she can do is wait. This is the second week and we’re still no further on. We have lost 45 appointments at the practice and another 15 across the PCN.’
She stressed that as employers this was a serious issue for PCNs and practices who may have staff working while not on the register and who have no idea.
‘My worry is this will have affected other PCNs and they may not even know it’s an issue. Previously [our physiotherapist] has had a letter so she wasn’t even expecting an email,’ she added.
After a meeting with the HCPC, Mr James said: ‘We laid out in very robust terms, our disappointment at how this situation has been handled by the HCPC as well as the downfalls and pitfalls in their processes leading to this initial problem.’
He urged members to check their registration status and to raise the issue with colleagues who may be unaware. ‘It’s really important that you identify whether you’re on the register or off the register unintentionally or intentionally, as soon as possible.’
Andy Smith, executive director of regulation at the HCPC, said they had sent an email reminder in February when the renewal window opened and one in April before the final deadline. ‘We have been using email since 2020. The renewal rate for other professions has been similar to previous years,’ he added.
‘If someone applies to come back within one month, we don’t charge a renewal fee,’ he said.
‘Our normal service standards are 10 working days but currently it is three to four days.’
In 2019, a report found that advanced physiotherapists can ‘reduce burden’ on GPs by managing the musculoskeletal caseload in general practice.