Accessing physiotherapy 

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.


'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.

Page last reviewed: 29/04/2014

Next review due: 29/04/2016