As an FCP, I can see the positive impact that we bring to healthcare.

Gemma Parkin, Team Lead and First Contact Practitioner, tells us how rewarding it is being an FCP and how she is able to help patients to see the right people, first time.

26 September 2023

I knew I wanted a career where I could help people

Growing up, I didn’t have much involvement with physiotherapy but I knew I wanted a career where I could make a difference to people’s lives. I became interested in sports injury management having been given shadowing opportunities within both professional and amateur sport. This, alongside seeing my Gran working as a nurse, allowed me to realise that helping people was incredibly rewarding. I initially completed my BSc degree in Sport Rehabilitation at St Mary’s College in Surrey.


Working as a Physiotherapy Assistant taught me that Musculoskeletal (MSK) conditions and treatments were incredibly diverse

After university, I worked as a personal trainer and was involved with local rugby clubs, delivering pitch-side injury management. I also worked as a Physiotherapy Assistant in the NHS. This is when my interest in physiotherapy started. Seeing the diverse nature of patients and conditions that clinicians treated encouraged me to apply for a Physiotherapy master’s degree at Northumbria University.


The specialisation in MSK is what initially drew me to apply to work at Connect Health

I completed my band 5 rotations in the NHS and began looking for jobs that were most appealing for me. I knew I wanted to become an MSK clinician and so when I saw that Connect Health offered that career path, alongside offering the Advanced Development Programme (ADP), I jumped at the opportunity to apply. I knew a few other people who worked for Connect and felt this was the right career move for me.


Connect Health have amazing opportunities for you to continue learning

The ADP is a fantastic addition to Connect Health. The basis of the programme is to give every clinician a really good baseline of MSK knowledge. When I joined the programme in 2014, I found this education and guidance to be invaluable. After I completed my ADP and worked for a couple of years as a Senior Physiotherapist, Connect supported me in completing a Level 3 Leadership diploma which helped me to applying for the Team Lead role in South Tyneside in 2022. I also moved into my role as a First Contact Practitioner (FCP). I will be starting a non-medical prescribing course at Northumbria University in September as part of my FCP role.


What I like most about Connect Health is that you’re not limited to just one career path, there are a number of different options available and you are encouraged and supported to get to where you want to be.


Covid took us all out of our comfort zones

Shortly after completing my diploma, Covid hit. We were no longer able to work in our normal clinics and see patients face to face as everyone was in lockdown. To give further support to the NHS, myself and 2 colleagues were redeployed working with the Acute Intermediate Care Team in South Tyneside where we saw patients in the community, visiting patient’s home and seeing them in care homes. A lot of these patients would normally have remained in hospital until they were more mobile following illness or surgery but with the demand for hospital beds rising, they were being discharged earlier than usual. We had to quickly adjust to a new way of working, using standing aids and hoists which we didn’t use in our regular clinics as well as supporting each other through the uncertainty of Covid.


I love that I can see what a difference my role makes to other people’s lives

Now, I have a split role where I work as a Team Lead in South Tyneside as well as clinically as an FCP, with one day a week dedicated to being a national FCP Supervisor, supporting others across the country through their roadmap to practice portfolio which every FCP needs to complete, demonstrating their capabilities.

As a Team Lead, I am responsible for managing my team and work in collaboration with the other South Tyneside team leads to help with the day to day running of the contract. In my FCP role, I can really see the positive outcomes that we bring to healthcare and see how FCP can help to reduce the strain on primary care, including GPs. Within FCP, we aim help patients to see the right healthcare professional, first time.


The support I receive from other FCPs was unrivalled

The job role within FCP can feel very different from Practice-based Physio and at Connect Health, there is a lot of support and guidance to help you to complete your roadmap.

The South Tyneside Team are fantastic and we won the Team of the Year Award for the second year running at the Connect Award. As a whole, Connect Health lives up to their values and encourages colleagues to strive towards these values on a daily basis. No matter where you work in the company from PCC through to Senior Management, everyone has the same work ethic.


Take advantage of the opportunities that come your way

I have always been highly motivated. By moving to Connect Health, I’ve been able to use the opportunities to develop my clinical and leadership skills to move up the career ladder quicker than I would have working elsewhere.

For anyone looking to get into an FCP role, I would recommend shadowing some FCP clinics and make use of the education modules Connect Health offers through the Connect Health Academy as a starting point. Ask questions and gain a better insight into working in FCP and the opportunities it may open up to help with developing your skills as a clinician.


If you’d like to find out more about working at Connect Health, contact

Click here to download Gemma Parkin’s Story