Why is the CSP putting effort into engaging members in Guernsey?

The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP) is the professional and trade union body for physiotherapists, physio students and physiotherapy staff across the UK, Channel Islands and Isle of Man. We have 56,000 members and represent over 90% of qualified physiotherapists across the UK and Crown Dependencies.

We have around 50 members currently in the Bailiwick of Guernsey, plus some UK based members who are from Guernsey. Guernsey accounts for under 0.1% of our membership. Given this fact, our Guernsey members would, in the past, have been welcome but largely ignored part of the CSP family. Times have changed at the CSP.

We are undertaking a very deliberate attempt to engage our members on the islands. We surveyed them last year to find out what they thought of the CSP and what their concerns about physiotherapy in Guernsey were. We also used the States elections to engage with local politicians. Later this month we are running a member event in St Peter Port and meeting local services and stakeholders. But why put so much effort into such a tiny proportion of our membership? The answer lies in our corporate strategy.

We recognised that, like many membership bodies, there is a sense that we are HQ centric. I deliberately don’t use the term London centric, even though our HQ in in the Capital. Our London members can feel as remote from the HQ as those in Orkney. We also know that the whole basis for panning and providing health and social care is more decentralised than ever. Our response has been to start a strategic shift to organise our members in their communities and workplaces. This gives us the best chance of exerting local influence, supporting members and of demonstrating that we are alongside our members wherever they live, work or study.

As part of our countries, regions and localities works (CRL for short) we have moved some professional support staff into our Scottish and Welsh offices. We have created new union organising posts and a new regional engagement and campaigns team. We are trailing virtual regional staff teams. But the common focus of these changes has been to start to enable our members to do more for themselves locally, supported by staff. Which takes me back to Guernsey.

It is symbolic of our commitment to be alongside our members, wherever they are, that we have chosen Guernsey. A small group of members, living on an island, which is not even part of the UK, is about as far removed from an Anglo-centric, NHS, Whitehall focus as we could get. Guernsey is also a great place for us to test whether the approach is more than just our staff working differently with our existing active members.

On paper we still have Guernsey branch, although it has not been active for several years. But if anywhere can reinvent how the CSP operates as both a peer to peer support network and to influence for patients and the profession it should be Guernsey.  Guernsey is small enough for pretty much everyone in the physiotherapy community to know each other. It has a history of local activism. There is a willingness to be involved and a desire to do this is less formal and more modern ways. It also has clear, if unique, political and administrative decision makers to influence. This means it is a perfect place to test what we hope will work as an approach in other places.

So watch this space for updates. If engaging members in Guernsey and encouraging them to find new ways of networking and getting active works it may be coming to a community near you.

It would be great to hear from other organisations trying a more local approaches and also from CSP members about your reflections on how we can help you promoted physiotherapy and support your fellow members locally.