The Advanced Practice Physiotherapy Network (APPN) supports advanced practice roles across all sectors and specialities of physiotherapy practice.
The network was formed in 1995 to support physiotherapists working in extended scope physiotherapist (ESP) roles. The founding members developed the role for physiotherapists to work with orthopaedic surgeons to help reduce the waiting times for patients attending orthopaedic clinics. Physiotherapists developed ‘extended’ skills to encompass tasks that previously were undertaken by the medical profession, such as requesting investigations, listing for surgery and injection therapy. As the scope of practice of physiotherapy grew and then these ‘extended skills’ became embedded in practice the title of ESP needed to be updated. In May 2018 the Extended Scope Practitioners Professional Network renamed as APPN to reflect current practice.
APPN started with the modest number of 35 members, became a professional network in 2006 and in 2020 has grown to over 1300 members. The APPN is a self-governing body that is responsible for its own financial and organisational liabilities. Although allied to the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP) APPN sits as a separate legal entity and organisation.
APPN works closely with the CSP and aims to support and influence CSP decision-making when appropriate. The APPN brings current and expert clinical knowledge to inform CSP work, including policy development, influencing government policy, consultation on the national evidence base and other consultations that can support patient care and physiotherapy role enhancement.
Over the past 20 years there has been considerable development of physiotherapy and other allied health professional roles to meet the demands of healthcare moving into the 21st century. Physiotherapy roles demand innovation, flexibility and a desire to learn new skills and push new boundaries.
So, what is advanced practice and how is it different to ‘regular’ practice? Advanced practice reflects the four pillars of physiotherapy practice and a level of practice across the four pillars of Clinical, Education, Research and Leadership. Physiotherapists in AP roles work with a high degree of autonomy, use complex decision-making within multi-professional teams, and work across the health and social care system to enable quality and integrated care.
AP does not just reflect a level of technical skill, such as injection therapy or prescribing, but more an ability to manage increasingly complex clinical caseload and to a greater responsibility and influence across an organisation or team whatever the work setting.
Nick Downing, APPN Chair