PhysioUpdate 9th November 2021

Health company Ascenti launches major recruitment drive for physiotherapists in the UK
All smiles: a patient receives wrist therapy at a session delivered by an Ascenti physio

A major healthcare company has reacted to a dramatic surge in demand for its musculoskeletal (MSK) services by unveiling plans to increase its physiotherapy workforce by almost half.

Ascenti, said to be the largest private employer of physios in the UK, has launched an unprecedented drive to recruit another 140 physiotherapists in the UK over the next 12 months.

According to the company, 300 Ascenti physiotherapists deliver more than 600,000 in-person and virtual appointments in the UK each year. But its physio workforce will aim to deliver about one million in-person and virtual appointments in 2022.

To attract more physiotherapists Ascenti is offering an enhanced benefits package, which includes:

flexible working

wellbeing support programmes

extended parental leave

paid leave to support charitable causes

In order to ensure we’re best placed to keep up with surging demand, we’re looking to recruit a further 140 forward-thinking physios across the country [Stephanie Dobrikova, Ascenti]

Stephanie Dobrikova, the company’s chief executive officer, said: ‘In order to ensure we’re best placed to keep up with surging demand, we’re looking to recruit a further 140 forward-thinking physios across the country to deliver a mix of both in-person and online musculoskeletal-focused services.

‘Employee wellbeing is a huge focus for us and we’re so proud of the caring, supportive and inclusive culture that exists at Ascenti, with many physios joining our team as a direct result of recommendations from existing employees.’

Continuing professional development

The company, which works in partnership with the NHS and 400 UK private businesses across the UK, is also expanding its support teams based in Bristol and Fareham. Its physio workforce already has access to an well-funded continuing professional development programme, ring-fenced paid education time every week, clinical mentoring and access to a fast-track career progression programme.

Digital pioneers

Ascenti was able to react swiftly to an increase demand for its services because it had invested in digitally-based solutions before the Covid-19 pandemic emerged.

Data collected from 27,000 online sessions showed they were as clinically effective as in-person treatment. Almost all (92 per cent) of patients were happy with the results, Ascenti found.

Patients are now being offered a choice of online or in-person appointments, helping to fuel further demand. 

Another factor is that private medical insurers and occupational health providers realise physiotherapy offers easy access to high-quality proactive and preventative healthcare, according to Ascenti.  Indeed, recent figures from the Health and Safety Executive show that the number of working days lost due to MSK conditions rose by 29 per cent during the pandemic – up from 6.9m days in 2018-19 to 8.9m in 2019-20.

To find out more about the new roles, visit:

A free webinar on triple aortic aneurysms and how they present as low back pain takes place on 11 November, from 6-7pm. Visit:

Members of the public who refers someone who goes on to secure a role with the company will receive £200 shopping voucher. Visit:

For more information about Ascenti, visit: 

Physios for ME says all students and physios need specialist training in wake of NICE guideline

A group of specialist physiotherapists has criticised aspects of a recently issued national guideline on treating people with a diagnosis of myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) or chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).

When the guideline was released by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) at the end of last month it was welcomed in a statement by the Forward-ME coalition. The physiotherapy group Physios for ME is one of nine organisations in the field that make up the coalition.

Physios must be able to identify and manage post-exertional malaise, says Physios for ME

In a separate statement, issued shortly after Forward-ME responded to the NICE guideline's publication, Physios for ME thanked members of the NICE team for their efforts in drawing up the guideline. ‘The guidelines are in line with our own recommendations and reflects the known adverse physiological effects of exertion,’ it noted.

But the Physios for ME statement also criticised a key section of the guideline dealing with exercise programmes and the role of physiotherapists. In this section, NICE argued that only physios working in ME/CFS specialist teams should be able to oversee physical activity or exercise programmes that have been offered to patients.

'Too restrictive'

Describing this recommendation as ‘too restrictive’, Physios for ME noted: ‘People with ME may see a physiotherapist outside of a specialist ME service for other problems, such as musculoskeletal [MSK], pain or rheumatology conditions.

‘Under these guidelines, how should an MSK practitioner manage a shoulder injury in a person with ME? Or an orthopaedic physiotherapist provide rehabilitation to a person with ME who has just had a hip replacement?

Physios for ME added: ‘We feel that education for all physiotherapists needs to be improved regarding ME, in particular the ability to identify and manage post exertional malaise, so that all physiotherapy interventions can be adapted and made suitable for a person with ME.’

Do not offer people with ME/CFS physical activity or exercise programmes that use fixed incremental increases, based on deconditioning and exercise avoidance theories as perpetuating ME/CFS [Physios for ME]

What is Physios for ME’s 'over-riding message for physiotherapists'?

‘Do not offer people with ME/CFS physical activity or exercise programmes that use fixed incremental increases, based on deconditioning and exercise avoidance theories as perpetuating ME/CFS.

Physios for ME also stated that:

all undergraduate physiotherapy programmes should cover ME topics ‘as standard’

all physiotherapists – regardless of their speciality – need training updates based on the most recent biomedical evidence

individual practitioners are responsible for ensuring their continuing professional development is up to scratch 

To see the Physios for ME statement, visit:

To see PhysioUpdate’s original article on the NICE guideline, visit:

Team player Zoe Fox says winning prestigious award from The BMJ was a 'career highlight'
Zoe Fox says it has been 'amazing' for the team to achieve such recognition

A respiratory physiotherapist who plays a key role in an award-winning long Covid team based in Leeds has described the experience as a ‘career highlight’

Specialist physiotherapist Zoe Fox is a member of a pioneering long Covid rehabilitation service that is run by two NHS trusts: Leeds Community Healthcare and Leeds Teaching Hospitals.

She and her colleagues won the clinical leadership team category at the 2021 The BMJ Awards, details of which were announced at a virtual ceremony last week (29 September).

'Amazing journey' 

Winning The BMJ award has been the highlight of my career! I have been so lucky to be part of setting up this fantastic service from the beginning [Zoe Fox]

Zoe told PhysioUpdate: ‘Winning The BMJ award has been the highlight of my career! I have been so lucky to be part of setting up this fantastic service from the beginning. What a journey we have been on, we have worked so hard and it’s amazing for this work to be recognised.’

In her role, Zoe conducts holistic physiotherapy assessments in order to support the rehab needs of people with a diagnosis of long Covid. Patients’ symptoms include shortness of breath on exertion, reduced lung capacity and exercise tolerance, she explained.

‘A large part of my role is assessing respiratory function and identifying breathing pattern disorders that have resulted from Covid 19 infection. Rehabilitation consists of breath work and breathing retraining to engage respiratory muscles that have become weak and have reduced function.’

Promoting self-management

Zoe also helps to educate patients in managing breathlessness and other post-Covid symptoms, empowering them to self-manage and monitor their symptoms through various strategies, she said.

‘I work closely with the occupational therapists in the team to support patients to manage other symptoms such as fatigue.’ She added: ‘By working together we can safely support patients to return to and increase their activity levels and exercise.’

For more information on The BMJ Awards, visit:

More plaudits for the team

Earlier last month (22 September), the Leeds-based long Covid rehabilitation service was named as a joint winner in the 'management of long-term conditions' category of the 2021 NHS innovations awards organised by Medipex, a regional ‘healthcare innovations hub’.

Clinical pathway co-ordinator Rachel Tarrant, who was one of the first members to be appointed to the service, told PhysioUpdate the past year had been a ‘whirlwind 12 months.’

During the first wave of the pandemic, Rachel was a specialist respiratory physiotherapist in the local acute hospital. She then took up the challenge of developing a team of allied health professionals to support the rehab needs of ‘Covid survivors’.

‘I provide clinical leadership, drive and develop the service, ensure efficiency, evidence-based practice, and the best patient care possible.

‘Another part of my role is ensuring we are sharing service data, experience, and skills nationally to support other long Covid services and contribute to the national picture and emerging evidence of long Covid.’

Patient advocacy role

Rachel acts as a 'strong patient advocate'. 'It’s important the service takes every opportunity to raise the awareness of long Covid and how it's impacting on people, conducting media interviews at every opportunity. I also have a very important patient-facing role being one of the first professionals in the team to conduct initial assessments.’

In her practice, Rachel focuses on patients’ rehabilitation needs and decides if any further investigations are needed, referring people on externally when required. Links have been established with colleagues in public health, the local council and various community groups and services that can offer support in the Leeds area (such as singing and peer support groups).

'Incredibly proud'

‘I am so unbelievably proud of our team, how together we have created and developed this new service over the last year and what we have already achieved. Winning this award is testament to everyone’s dedication in rising to the challenges of Covid and supporting the rehabilitation needs of people suffering from longer-term health consequences.’

Rachel and her award-winning colleague physio Jennifer Davison, a Covid 19 rehab coordinator, are co-authors of a paper titled A Multidisciplinary NHS COVID-19 Service to Manage Post-COVID-19 Syndrome in the Community. It was published earlier this year. See:

The Medipex hub covers the NHS Yorkshire and Humber, and East Midlands regions. For more information, visit:

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