Physiotherapist legal issues

Customer sitting on bench receiving treatment from physiotherapist

Some of the key areas where legislation is likely to affect your business are listed below.

What licences does a physiotherapist need?

All physiotherapists must be registered with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC). Registration must be renewed every two years.

Practice requirements

Some local authorities may require you to licence your practice, although your Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) registration usually means this is not necessary.

You also may need to obtain planning permission for your practice, particularly if there is a change of use.

Data protection

As you will be keeping patients' records then you may have to register as a data user with the Information Commissioner's Office. The Chartered Society of Physiotherapists (CSP) website includes a Record-keeping guidance section that has information about your responsibilities under the Data Protection Act, including guidance on the General Data Protection Regulation which introduced additional protection for personal data from May 2018.

Use of title

The titles 'physiotherapist' and 'physical therapist' are protected, meaning that only those who have achieved the necessary level of qualification can use those titles. In addition, to use these titles you must also be registered with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC). People misusing these titles face prosecution.

Rules of professional conduct

All physiotherapists must meet the HCPC's professional standards. These are set out in 'Standards of proficiency - Physiotherapists' and 'Standards of conduct, performance and ethics', both of which you can download from the HCPC website.

Chartered physiotherapists (those that are members of the CSP) have to observe the 'Code of Professional Values and Behaviour'. The Rules cover all of the different areas of practice. A physiotherapist can only use the title 'chartered physiotherapist' if he or she is a member of the Society.

The Society also sets quality standards which, although they are not mandatory for their members, they are deemed to be achievable. Even if you are not a member of the CSP, you may consider aiming to match these standards.

The CSP guidance document 'Thinking of Private Practice' includes some useful advice on the legal implications of setting up on your own. If you're a CSP member you can download it from the CSP website.


All electrical equipment should be checked periodically by a qualified electrician and should have a maintenance certificate.

Licensing and planning

Although some local authorities may require your practice to hold a 'special treatments' licence, most won't. You may also need to apply for planning permission.


There is a wide range of legislation that applies to retailing businesses and which will be relevant to you if you plan to sell a lot of equipment to the general public that isn't used in specific treatments. For example, goods and services must not be misleadingly described and the retail price of goods must be clearly displayed. You will be responsible for making sure that all goods or services are fit for their intended purpose and of satisfactory quality.

Data protection

As you will be keeping patients' records, you need to be aware of the Data Protection Act and how it applies to you. The CSP website has guidance on record keeping which includes a section on the Data Protection Act, including guidance on the General Data Protection Regulation which introduced additional protection for personal data from May 2018. There is also data protection advice and guidance for health professionals on the Information Commissioner's Office website.

Health & Safety, fire

You must comply with workplace health and safety and fire safety legislation.

Employment legislation

Anyone employing staff must comply with employment legislation. Important areas of legislation include recruitment, employment contracts, pay, working hours, holidays, employment policies, sickness, maternity, paternity, discrimination, discipline, grievances, dismissals, redundancies and employment tribunals.

Insurance for a physiotherapist

Contact an insurer or insurance broker and explain exactly how your business will operate - they will then explain what insurance cover you must have by law, and other cover you should consider. This might include:

  • professional liability
  • all risks cover for your equipment
  • public liability
  • employer's liability insurance
  • loss of earnings
  • premises
  • motor insurance (for delivery vehicles)

If you are a member of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapists (CSP) you will be covered for professional liability. The CSP also provides some literature on insurance. If you are a member of Physio First you can get special rates for practice insurance. Visit their websites for more information.

What does the * mean?

If a link has a * this means it is an affiliate link. To find out more, see our FAQs.