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Difference between a chartered physiotherapist and a physical therapist

Posted by Eamonn Brady on

Sinead Brogan MISCP is a Chartered Physiotherapist and runs FlexPhysio Physiotherapy Clinic at Whelehans Pharmacy, Pearse St, Mullingar. To book an appointment or ask a question call Sinead at 083 1722171 

 It could be asked, “are all ‘physios’ the same”? Unfortunately the answer is no. Unlike other medical professionals such as doctors, nurses, midwives and pharmacists, there is no protection in Irish legislation for the title of physiotherapist or physical therapist in Ireland. This means that in essence, anyone can not only assume such a title, but also practice under it.

 There are currently many therapists practicing in the Republic of Ireland in many different settings including sports and leisure using the term “physiotherapists”/ “physio”/”physical therapist” but who have not completed the required courses recognised by the only governing body in the Republic of Ireland called the Irish Society of Chartered Physiotherapists. There is currently legislation being drafted by the Government which when finalised into law in the Dail will help clarify this situation for the public. In the meantime, you can protect yourself by ensuring when you require treatment with a physiotherapist; you always check that the person pertaining to be a physiotherapist is a Chartered Physiotherapist. A Chartered Physiotherapist will have the letters MISCP after their name.  This is your protection that you are being treated by a qualified practitioner. Chartered Physiotherapists are committed to continual professional development and education ensuring the most up to date knowledge and evidence for your care.

 Irish Society of Chartered Physiotherapists (ISCP)

The Irish Society of Chartered Physiotherapists (ISCP) is the only competent authority acting which has the approval of the Minister for Health and Children for accrediting undergraduate Physiotherapy programmes in the Irish universities. The Society is also the Designated Authority for the review and validation of qualifications obtained outside Ireland. To protect the public, only members of the ISCP are entitled to use the term Chartered Physiotherapist.

 Why confusion can sometimes arise?

The confusion arises because in many countries including the UK and the US, the titles “physiotherapist” and “physical therapist” are protected, and may be used only by therapists with the appropriate qualifications such as four-year full-time degrees. In Ireland, however, physical therapists or sports therapists generally do not have the same qualifications as a physiotherapist, and often gain their qualifications through part-time programmes. To protect these titles and to protect the public, registration with the ISCP has become compulsory for physiotherapists with the appropriate qualification in recent years. This now means it is easier for patients seeking treatment to check if their physiotherapist has appropriate qualifications by simply checking if their physiotherapist is a Chartered Physiotherapist. A simple way of doing this is by going to the ISCP website (; by clicking on the section, “Is your physiotherapist chartered?” and when you type in the name of your Physiotherapist, if he/she is a Chartered Physiotherapist, it will confirm this as well as their county of practice. 

 What are the differences?

According to the ISCP, which accredits physiotherapists in Ireland, to be a member of the society and thus a Chartered Physiotherapist, physiotherapists must have completed a three- or four-year degree programme, either in one of four Irish universities or approved international university. This training includes three core areas of muscular skeletal, neurology and cardiorespiratory. By choosing a Chartered Physiotherapist, you are choosing a professional who has scientific approach to the assessment, diagnosis and treatment of your complaint. Chartered Physiotherapists are recognised and covered by VHI, Laya Healthcare, AVIVA and other health insurance schemes

 A physical therapist, on the other hand, can complete a course on a part-time basis, from 15 months to a three- year term, so the levels of experience and qualifications do differ. Moreover, training for a physical therapist typically only focuses on muscular-skeletal areas and does not take into account other body functions and processes. While the work undertaken by a physical therapist may be legitimate, the ISCP argues that it is essential that the patient should understand exactly what experience and training the person treating them has obtained.

 Only Chartered Physiotherapists are entitled to work in the public sector such as hospitals and health centres, thus it is in the private practice that confusion can arise. According to the ISCP, this grey area is leading to many problems, and it receives many complaints from members of the public who thought they

were seeing a trained physiotherapist.


Physiotherapy service in Whelehans

Chartered Physiotherapist Sinead Brogan MISCP runs FlexPhysio Physiotherapy Service in the therapy rooms at Whelehans Pharmacy in Mullingar. Sinead has an Honours Physiotherapy degree and has experience  working in Midland Regional Hospital Mullingar and private practice in New Zealand, Australia and Ireland, treating a wide variety of musculoskeletal issues including acute and chronic sports injuries, repetitive strain and postural problems, spinal dysfunctions and pregnancy related issues. Sinead has also completed a Masters in Neuromuscular Physiotherapy in UCD. Sinead is interested in sports injuries, having worked with many Gaelic and rugby teams providing pitch-side cover. Sinead is a Stott Pilates instructor and teaches pre and post-partum pregnancy, beginners and intermediate Pilate’s classes. She is also a Trigger Point Dry Needling practitioner and uses this technique with great results.  Reduced physiotherapy rates for over 60’s and affiliated sport clubs. Contact Sinead at 083 1722171 or

FlexPhysio Physiotherapy service at Whelehans Pharmacy, 38 Pearse St, Mullingar (Opposite the Greville Arms Hotel). Book by calling Sinead at 083 1722171


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