How to Apply as a Physiotherapist in the UK from Overseas

Many Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) look for ways to grow personally and professionally. They want jobs that not only provide financial stability but also fulfill their career dreams. For those who love healthcare and want to make a big difference in people’s lives, becoming a physiotherapist in the United Kingdom can be an exciting journey full of rewards.

The UK has a strong healthcare system, and physiotherapy is a very important part of keeping people healthy in different communities. If you’re an OFW with a background in healthcare or you’re really interested in becoming a physiotherapist, this guide is for you. Let’s go through the steps, requirements, and opportunities that can help you become a respected physiotherapist in the UK.

how to apply as a physiotherapist in the UK from overseas
Disclaimer: The information posted here is based on the personal experiences shared by the OFW in the video below. Please let this post serve as a guide only. If you have specific questions, you may ask the OFW by commenting on their video on their accounts.

A Guide to Becoming a Physiotherapist in the UK for Overseas Filipino Workers

Meet Raisa, a dedicated physiotherapist currently practicing in the dynamic healthcare landscape of the United Kingdom, specifically in south-eastern London. Having embarked on her UK journey almost a year ago, Raisa generously shares her experience to guide fellow Filipinos aspiring to become physiotherapists in the UK. If you want to watch the full video, click on the link below:

Taking the IELTS

Raisa’s journey began with three years of hospital work before she set her sights on the UK. In 2020, she initiated the process with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC). One of the initial hurdles she faced was the IELTS academic exam, where a score of at least 6.5 in each section and an overall band score of 7 were prerequisites for physiotherapists.

Here are some tips tailored to healthcare professionals, like physiotherapists, on how to score well on the IELTS exam:

  1. Focus on Academic Vocabulary: Pay attention to academic vocabulary related to healthcare, physiotherapy, and medical terms. This will be especially helpful in the reading and writing sections.
  2. Practice Listening to Various Accents: Healthcare professionals interact with people from diverse backgrounds. Practice listening to various English accents to improve your comprehension skills.
  3. Enhance Note-Taking Skills: Develop effective note-taking techniques during the listening section. This skill will not only help you remember details but also assist in organizing information for the writing section.
  4. Read Widely: Read a variety of materials, including academic articles, journals, and healthcare-related publications. This will improve your reading comprehension and expose you to different writing styles.
  5. Write Structured Essays: Practice writing essays with a clear introduction, body paragraphs, and conclusion. Ensure that your ideas are logically organized and use appropriate vocabulary.
  6. Improve Speaking Fluency: Engage in regular conversations in English, especially on healthcare topics. This will enhance your ability to express ideas clearly and fluently during the speaking test.
  7. Understand Different Question Types: Familiarize yourself with the different question types in each section of the exam. This understanding will help you approach each question effectively and manage your time wisely.
  8. Simulate Exam Conditions: Practice under exam conditions to get a feel for the time constraints and the overall exam environment. This will help reduce anxiety on the actual test day.
  9. Seek Feedback: If possible, have a teacher or language expert review your practice essays and provide feedback. Constructive criticism can help you identify areas for improvement.
  10. Stay Updated with IELTS Changes: Keep abreast of any updates or changes to the IELTS exam format. This ensures that your preparation aligns with the current requirements.

HCPC Requirements

  • Completed HCPC application form
  • IELTS Academic exam with a minimum score of 6.5 in each section and an overall band score of 7
  • Notarized Transcript of Records (TOR)
  • Notarized diploma
  • Copy of professional license from the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC)
  • Certificates of attendance from relevant seminars
  • Certificate of employment from previous experiences
  • Additional documents as required by HCPC (refer to their official website for specific details)

Following the language proficiency test, Raisa diligently compiled the required documents, starting with the basics outlined on the HCPC website. These included her Transcript of Records (TOR), diploma, a copy of her license from the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC), and certificates from attended seminars. Going the extra mile, she also submitted a certificate of employment from her previous roles in the Philippines.

A pivotal part of the application process was the HCPC application form, where Raisa encountered some challenges. The form demanded detailed information, particularly regarding her professional experience. HCPC sought evidence of competence in various areas, encompassing respiratory, cardiovascular, musculoskeletal, neurological, and more. Raisa found herself articulating her expertise through essay-style responses, emphasizing her comprehensive understanding across different domains.

Securing Registration and Employment

Following the submission of her meticulously prepared application via post, Raisa underscores a crucial piece of advice: never send originals. All documents must be notarized copies to ensure a smooth and secure application process. While Raisa’s journey involved a postal submission, it’s noteworthy that the current procedure has transitioned to online submissions, simplifying the process for applicants.

In Raisa’s case, it took approximately 6 to 7 months before she received a response from the HCPC. A key takeaway from her experience is persistence. Raisa emphasizes the importance of consistently reaching out to the HCPC for updates. In her determination, she even resorted to engaging with them on Twitter to seek updates on her application status.

Here are additional tips related to the application process for overseas physiotherapists, drawing from Raisa’s experience:

  1. Organize and Notarize Documents in Advance: Begin the application process by organizing and notarizing all required documents well in advance. This includes transcripts, diplomas, licenses, and certificates. Having notarized copies ready can expedite the submission process.
  2. Create Digital Copies of Notarized Documents: Alongside physical notarized copies, create high-quality digital scans or photocopies of each document. This ensures you have easily accessible digital copies for online submissions or for any future reference.
  3. Verify Document Requirements: Regularly check the official HCPC website for any updates or changes in document requirements. The regulatory body may update its guidelines, and staying informed is crucial to submitting accurate and complete documentation.
  4. Utilize Online Submission Platforms Effectively: If the application process has shifted to online submissions, familiarize yourself with the online platform’s functionalities. Ensure that you adhere to file format requirements and upload documents in a clear and organized manner.
  5. Keep Multiple Copies of Communication: Maintain copies of all communication with the HCPC. Whether it’s emails, letters, or online form submissions, having a documented record of your interactions can be beneficial for reference and follow-up.
  6. Establish a Systematic Follow-Up Routine: Develop a systematic routine for following up on your application. This can include setting reminders on your calendar or creating a tracking document to monitor submission dates, follow-up dates, and any additional requirements.
  7. Engage with Official Social Media Channels: Explore official social media channels of regulatory bodies like the HCPC. Some organizations use these platforms to provide updates or answer general queries. While Raisa engaged with HCPC on Twitter, be sure to explore other relevant channels as well.
  8. Join Online Forums or Groups: Seek out online forums or groups where individuals share their experiences with the application process. Engaging with a community of applicants can provide insights, tips, and emotional support during what can be a lengthy and sometimes challenging process.
  9. Stay Professional in Online Communication: When engaging with regulatory bodies on social media or other online platforms, maintain a professional tone. Clear and concise communication is key, and avoid sharing sensitive information publicly.
  10. Explore Additional Communication Channels: In addition to social media, explore other communication channels provided by the regulatory body. This could include official email addresses, helplines, or online query forms. Use these channels to seek information or updates on your application.

Scrutiny and Other Fees

Upon receiving a response, applicants are directed to pay a scrutiny fee, which Raisa mentions was around 30,000 pesos during her application period. Additionally, there is a separate registration fee. After settling the fees, applicants are required to check for confirmation. Raisa vividly recalls the moment of triumph when she received the notification: “Congratulations, you are registered!” This signifies the green light to search for one’s name on the HCPC register, a tangible validation of the accomplished milestone.

With registration in hand, Raisa wasted no time in exploring employment opportunities. Her proactive approach led her to scour various platforms, including NHS websites, LinkedIn, Indeed, and even specialized forums like physiobob. While agencies seemed a plausible option, Raisa advises a discerning approach, sharing her experience of identifying one reputable agency from the Philippines.

Trials and Triumphs in Securing Employment

In the pursuit of employment as a physiotherapist in the UK, Raisa encountered both challenges and moments of hope. Eager to explore opportunities, she took the initiative to connect with potential employers, going as far as reaching out on Facebook. However, the stark reality she faced was a recurring pattern: once her Filipino origin was disclosed, numerous responses echoed a disheartening refrain – “Sorry, we can’t process your papers.”

Raisa continued her quest for employment, ensuring transparency in her communications. Prior to interviews, she preemptively informed potential employers about her Philippine background and the specific documents they might request. However, this candor often led to polite rejections, with employers expressing their inability to accommodate candidates from the Philippines.

Amidst the challenges, a glimmer of hope emerged through a connection Raisa made with a fellow physiotherapist from Abu Dhabi. This individual, who transitioned to the UK through a private company, informed Raisa about job openings, including positions labeled as Band 5 and Band 6. This valuable tip presented Raisa with a new avenue to explore, highlighting the significance of networking and leveraging connections in the job search process.

Hiring Process

Undeterred by initial rejections, Raisa’s journey took a positive turn when she stumbled upon a job opening on a company’s website. Intrigued, she submitted her application, marking the beginning of a patient waiting game that lasted 2 to 3 months.

The initial response, however, was disheartening. An email from the interviewer expressed regret, stating that they couldn’t accept Raisa’s application. Just as she was coming to terms with this disappointment, a surprising twist occurred. The clinical director of the company reached out separately, seeking confirmation of Raisa’s registration with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC).

This unexpected turn proved to be a game-changer. The clinical director, having missed this crucial detail in Raisa’s initial resume, conveyed that without this information, her application might have been rejected. Raisa imparts a valuable tip derived from this experience: when submitting resumes, ensure the prominent display of your HCPC application or registration number.

Reflecting on the overall journey, Raisa estimates the entire process, from initiating her application with HCPC to completing registration with POEA and POLO, to be approximately 150 to 200 days. Notably, as a direct hire, Raisa’s employer assumed responsibility for reimbursing the expenses she incurred in the Philippines. A relocation fee was provided upon her arrival in the UK, compensating for her self-financed preparations back home.

Choosing the UK as her destination held personal significance for Raisa, driven by family ties. Her cousin and aunt’s presence in the UK served as compelling reasons for her choice. However, Raisa acknowledges that, at the outset, she held a common misconception about the global licensing process for physiotherapists. Contrary to her initial belief, not all countries necessitate a licensure exam, and each destination may have distinct requirements.

Raisa’s journey unfolds as a testament to resilience, adaptability, and the importance of meticulous detail in the application process. Join us as we continue to unravel Raisa’s experiences, providing valuable insights for aspiring physiotherapists seeking opportunities in the UK.

Choosing the UK

Raisa’s decision to pursue her career in the United Kingdom was influenced by a blend of practical considerations and a fascination with the cultural landscape. Contrary to the misconception that she needed to undergo additional exams, she discovered that the UK only required the IELTS, leading her to opt for this straightforward route. The prospect of avoiding further studies played a pivotal role in her decision to choose the UK as her destination.

Beyond professional motivations, Raisa was drawn to the reputed work-life balance embedded in the UK’s culture, a trait she had heard about from others. The allure of a fulfilling experience and a culture that values equilibrium between work and personal life became compelling reasons for her journey.

Here’s a list of reasons why one might choose to work as a physiotherapist in the United Kingdom:

  1. Global Recognition: The UK’s healthcare system is internationally acclaimed, providing physiotherapists with opportunities for professional growth and global recognition.
  2. High Standards of Practice: The UK upholds high standards in healthcare practice, offering a challenging and rewarding environment for physiotherapists to excel in their profession.
  3. Diverse Specializations: Physiotherapists in the UK have the chance to specialize in various areas, including musculoskeletal, respiratory, cardio, women’s health, and more, broadening their skill set.
  4. Work-Life Balance: The UK is known for its emphasis on work-life balance, providing healthcare professionals with an environment that supports personal well-being alongside professional commitments.
  5. Rich Cultural Experience: Living and working in the UK offers a rich cultural experience. Physiotherapists can engage with diverse communities, gaining exposure to different lifestyles and perspectives.
  6. Professional Development Opportunities: The UK provides ample opportunities for continuing education and professional development, ensuring that physiotherapists stay updated with the latest advancements in their field.
  7. Language Proficiency: Working in an English-speaking country like the UK enhances language proficiency, a valuable skill for international communication and collaboration in the healthcare field.
  8. Quality of Life: With excellent healthcare facilities, public services, and recreational options, the UK offers a high quality of life for both individuals and families.
  9. Research and Innovation: The UK is a hub for healthcare research and innovation. Physiotherapists have the opportunity to contribute to cutting-edge advancements in their field.
  10. Networking Opportunities: Physiotherapists in the UK can build a strong professional network through interactions with colleagues, participation in conferences, and engagement with various healthcare organizations.

Specialized Roles as a Physiotherapist in the UK

When Raisa moved to the UK, her job as a physiotherapist changed a lot. The biggest difference was how much freedom she got to do her job independently. In the Philippines, patients usually went to rehab doctors first for assessments, but in the UK, Raisa became the main person patients came to for help. General practitioners referred patients directly to her, showing that she was in charge of the whole process.

Raisa specialized in musculoskeletal cases, dealing with different kinds of pain like tennis elbow and back pain every day. This was unlike her experience in the Philippines, where she worked in a hospital and saw a wider range of cases, including neurology.

In the UK, physiotherapy offers many specializations that focus on specific parts of healthcare. Unlike the Philippines, where respiratory therapists are common, the UK has physiotherapists who specialize in respiratory conditions. This goes for other areas too, like cardio, women’s health, balance and coordination, headaches, and even cases related to balance (vestibular cases). The variety of specializations means that practitioners can find their favorite area and keep growing in their careers.

Here’s a list of specialized roles that physiotherapists can pursue in the United Kingdom:

  1. Musculoskeletal Physiotherapist: Specializing in the assessment and treatment of musculoskeletal conditions such as joint pain, back pain, and sports injuries.
  2. Respiratory Physiotherapist: Focused on treating individuals with respiratory conditions, providing interventions to improve lung function and breathing difficulties.
  3. Cardiovascular Physiotherapist: Specializing in the rehabilitation of individuals with heart-related conditions, helping improve cardiovascular health and overall fitness.
  4. Neurological Physiotherapist: Working with patients who have neurological disorders such as stroke, multiple sclerosis, or Parkinson’s disease to enhance mobility and functional independence.
  5. Women’s Health Physiotherapist: Specializing in conditions related to women’s health, including pregnancy-related issues, pelvic floor dysfunction, and postpartum rehabilitation.
  6. Pediatric Physiotherapist: Focused on the assessment and treatment of children with developmental issues, congenital conditions, or injuries affecting their physical well-being.
  7. Occupational Health Physiotherapist: Working in collaboration with employers to enhance the health and well-being of employees, addressing work-related injuries and promoting ergonomic practices.
  8. Sports Physiotherapist: Providing specialized care to athletes, dealing with sports injuries, and assisting in rehabilitation to optimize performance and prevent future injuries.
  9. Vestibular Physiotherapist: Specializing in treating individuals with balance and vestibular disorders, addressing issues related to dizziness and imbalance.
  10. Headache and Migraine Physiotherapist: Focused on the assessment and management of individuals experiencing chronic headaches and migraines through targeted interventions.

The sheer variety of options surprised Raisa, making her realize the boundless opportunities for professional growth. The ability to specialize in areas beyond the traditional musculoskeletal focus adds a layer of excitement to the field, providing avenues for continuous learning and development.

Reflecting on her journey, Raisa emphasizes the importance of perseverance and independent research for those aspiring to become physiotherapists abroad, particularly in the UK. The lack of comprehensive information online led her to tap into the power of community and personal connections. Utilizing Facebook, Raisa sought out fellow Filipinos with firsthand experience and embarked on a journey of inquiry. The valuable insights she gained from those who had treaded a similar path proved instrumental in navigating the intricate process of working as a physiotherapist in the UK.

Becoming a physiotherapist in the United Kingdom might seem tricky, but it’s totally worth it. Raisa’s experiences show us a helpful guide for anyone dreaming of doing the same. She teaches us how important it is to carefully get all our paperwork ready and not to give up while waiting.

Choosing the UK for a physiotherapy career has lots of perks. The world knows how good the UK’s healthcare system is, and there are many different areas you can specialize in, making your professional growth super exciting. The focus on having a good balance between work and personal life, along with experiencing different cultures, makes the journey even better for physiotherapists who want more than just a job improvement — they want a whole life change.