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Ignorance is no excuse for the law

Updated: Jun 13, 2023

A Tale with a Positive Outcome!

Last year I received an email from the Health & Care Professions Council (HCPC) saying I’d been reported for mis-representation. I thought it was a scam email so I deleted it. But 2 days later I received a fat envelope in the post. It contained a similar strong message and was enclosed with sheets of printed screenshots of pages and posts from my LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram accounts and my website.

It turns out I had been misrepresenting myself by describing my title and my work as a PHYSICAL THERAPIST doing PHYSICAL THERAPY.

Doing therapies that are physical it is exactly what I do. A combination of various therapies that are hands-on, touching the body as oppose to hands-off (healing) or psychotherapy (talking), nutrition or coaching therapy.

I really didn’t understand why I was being accused of misrepresentation. However, reading further it appears I am ignorant of the fact I am not entitled to the noun/ pronoun either online, in print media or verbally. I was therefore misrepresenting myself as a “physiotherapist” because, unknown to me and everyone else I've talked to this about, the UK Physiotherapy Association has owned this title since 2001 when it was encased in law. I’m not sure if they trademarked the name or what. But, I’m keen to know why they did it. Fear of competition maybe?

Article 39(1) of the Health Professions Order 2001 makes it a criminal offence for a person, with intent to deceive (whether clearly or by implication) to: Use a designated title to which they are not entitled;
The words “by implication” mean that an unregistered person may be committing an offence even if they do not use the designated title directly (for example, if they describe the service they provide as “chiropody” or “physiotherapy”)

This is the description of a physiotherapist on the HCPC site.

Physiotherapists deal with human function and movement, and help people to achieve their full physical potential. They use physical approaches to promote, maintain and restore wellbeing.
Protected titles: Physiotherapist; Physical therapist

TBH - that description can be applied to all kinds of therapists including fitness, bowen therapists, osteopaths, chiropractic therapists, massage therapists and many more.

I've not yet met one person, including the physios I've spoken to who is aware that “physical therapist” is the same as “physiotherapist”

HCPC unfriendly approach suggested I was "with intent to deceive or by implication" doing a criminal activity. The communication, over the 6 month period, was aggressive to a situation I was so obviously ignorant of.

My online or print media was undeniably clear on the treatments I offer, the training I’ve had and at no point was I aiming for people to see me as a medically trained physiotherapist. When I was building my website and in discussions with an SEO specialist, we were very careful to choose keywords that weren’t titles of other therapies so "physical therapy” , which seemed to cover it all, was the term I did use.

I acted within 24hrs of my first telephone conversation to clear my name. I religiously went through everything to remove all posts, articles, website mentions of the term physical therapy and physical therapist, in all forms including video clips. All my print media, business cards and flyers, ended up in the bin. From 2015 to 2019 I was living in Hong Kong. The term “physical therapist” was used in some 3rd party local media articles I'd featured in and on a 3rd party website to describe my role while working in a Central Hong Kong at an Integrative Health Clinic. I was asked to get the articles/videos removed. This time I said no as Hong Kong was outside of HCPC’s jurisdiction. I obliged HCPC at every other turn, and had removed everything I was able to in those first 2 weeks. Yet it took them 6 months before they informed me they'd cleared my name. The cynic in me would say I'm still on a "watch list" though.

So, what can I generically call myself and what group can I be in?

Yes, I am an alternative and complementary therapist, but it needs a generic sub category.

Manual therapy suggests something that might be more heavy handed than the gentle touch of Bowen Therapy and the non-forced approach of Evans Alignment to adjust bones. “Physical based therapy” is a bit confusing and no doubt the HCPC would be back on my case with a cry of misrepresentation. Hands on therapy? For me, this doesn’t really do it, or allow me the value and respect I have received in testimonials from clients, professional and elite sports people and journalists who have experienced my work.

The alternative treatments I offer cover: soft tissue release; adjustment of bones, remedial exercise, breathing exercises and lymphatic drainage.

I describe my work as “an *effective* alternative to physiotherapy, osteopathy, chiropractic therapy and massage” and when people now ask me what I do, I shorten it to say...

“I’m an *effective* alternative to a physiotherapist”.

I realised if I use the term "alternative to"........ (and I checked this with HCPC) I can now comfortably use the terms physiotherapy, osteopathy, chiropractic therapy and sports massage in my SEO keywords. It has been a real lesson for me in how to turn a negative into a positive. I have never been busier!

If you already knew about the connection of "physiotherapy" and "physical therapy" please do let me know.

And should we other therapists who do physical work on the body be campaigning for a re-think of this protected title?


*effective*, because most cases I see only require 3-4 sessions each around 5-7 days apart.

*The HCPC wouldn’t share who reported me but, I did find out through a client who it was and why. I got physical results where this physio didn’t and the client wanted to continue seeing me rather than them. The physio shot themselves in the foot and unwittingly helped me reach out to a larger section of people searching google for help with their aches and pains.

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