Physiotherapy - Accessing physiotherapy 

Accessing physiotherapy 


'Physiotherapy' is a protected title and all physiotherapists must be registered with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC).

Being registered with the HCPC means that a physiotherapist is legally allowed to work in the UK and is working within defined professional standards.

If you need physiotherapy a number of different options are available to you.

You can see a physiotherapist: 

  • through the NHS
  • privately
  • through occupational health schemes 
  • by contacting a physiotherapist directly (self-referral)

Each of these routes is described below.

Physiotherapy can also sometimes be accessed through charities, patient groups and the voluntary sector.


Depending on where you live in the UK, you may need to visit your GP first. After discussing your symptoms with you, they may refer you to an NHS physiotherapist. Physiotherapy through the NHS is free of charge.

Some areas in the UK offer a self-referral service, which means you can make an appointment to see a physiotherapist without having to see your GP first (see below).

Private sector

Many physiotherapists in England work in the private sector. If you see a physiotherapist privately you'll have to pay for treatment.

If you decide to see a private physiotherapist, make sure they're a fully qualified member of a recognised professional body, such as the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP).

To find a chartered private physiotherapist in your local area, you can use the postcode search facility on the CSP's website. You can also find a physio on the Physio First website.

Occupational health schemes 

Physiotherapy may be available through your workplace. Some companies run occupational health schemes that include physiotherapy treatment. Check with your human resources department.

Direct referral

Self-referral is becoming more widely practised and it's particularly popular for people with long-term conditions who know what treatment they need.

The benefits of self-referral include:

  • saving time for both GPs and patients
  • reducing waiting times
  • improving attendance levels at appointments
  • empowering patients to manage their condition

Self-referral for physiotherapy may not be available in all areas of the UK. Your GP or local NHS Authority or Trust should be able to tell you whether it's available in your area.

Page last reviewed: 29/04/2014

Next review due: 29/04/2016


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The 8 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

pathfinderfox said on 04 December 2013

I attended Fairlawns about 2 years ago and frankly was NOT impressed with the physio who suggested an injection in my heel. I said "Will this mend the problem forever?" knowing full well it would not and she said Yes, which was not the truth. She showed no interest whatsoever in the fact that the whole mechanics of how I was walking in dictated severe hip and knee joint degeneration problems. I've had more help from my Chiropractor who also was less patronising. I am now waiting to go again for yet another assessment because now GPs don't seem to be able to just refer you straight to an orthop. surgeon like they used to do. Now I have to go through some ridiculous charade of the Physio "trying to give me therapy". As if. My knees have just about completely degenerated to the point where I can hardly walk at all. They jolly well need replacing NOT physio. What a hopeless system. What are they hoping to achieve - are they hoping I will die before I actually have the operation in order to save the NHS money ? Degenerative Joint Disease - the clue is in the name - i should just be sent straight to an orthopaedic surgeon instead of wasting my time faffing about with Physio. AND why can't you use the book on line facility for this instead of trying to get through on the phone ?

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Eric M said on 31 October 2013

I have tried this week to get hold of any one in the Physiotherapy department to cancel an appointment - left two messages one on Monday - one on Thursday. Finally got through only to be told they cannot retrieve the messages from there voice mail. But they keep the answer phone on - who's the joker! When I did get through to speak to some one she stated we can't get BT in yet. My reply was change from BT or get a better contract. This is not the first time this department has had troubles with their telephone system.

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millieanne said on 05 June 2013

Interesting how this article is 3/4 about going privately. As this service is absolutely underfunded, it's not surprising that private is being pushed.
This service and podiatry is woefully underfunded and it totally unacceptable to have to wait a minimum of 13 weeks to get an appointment.
These services have the power to make people mobile, increase their wellbeing and in the end, cost far less than just doling out medication. NHS bosses need to get their act together and bring these services up to the required level. If there is increased demand, why did they get rid of massive numbers of physios 3 years ago? Why is Croydon podiatry service only running with two people for a Borough of 366000? These services are an investment, ultimately, in people's lives not a drain. So listen up bosses

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User12521 said on 20 February 2012

The Southern Health form can be found here:

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Gladioli said on 21 October 2011

I should like a softcopy of the physio self-referral form as my GP is happy for me to return for further physio on an 'as required' basis. Would it not be more efficient to have this form available on-line and avoid wasting NHS staff's time??

Or - is this somewhere here and I just can't find it?

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eddyallsop said on 24 March 2011

As per Jamesowners, you havent said how I can search for my nearest NHS physio. Should be a very simple thing to do but its proving very difficult!!!

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Musto said on 23 July 2010

You need to speak to your GP or local PCT to find out whether direct referral is an option in your area. Direct referral is currently only available in certain parts of the UK but it has proved popular and is likely to become more widespread. You can search for your nearest physio through the Physio First website (see the link above).

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Jamesowers said on 27 March 2010

You haven't said given a link to where I can find my nearest physio or HOW i can directly refer myself...

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