Connect Health gives you the chance to learn and develop both personally and professionally – Deputy Head of Physiotherapy

Andy Reilly, Deputy Head of Physiotherapy, North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust tells us how his years at Connect Health helped him to become a clinical leader

4 September 2019

Andy Reilly, Deputy Head of Physiotherapy, North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust tells us how his years at Connect Health helped him to become a clinical leader


Connect gives you the chance to learn and develop both personally and professionally. It’s given me fantastic opportunities to transform my clinical career into a leadership position.

I’d always had an interest in sports and thought that was what I wanted to do as a career

At school and college, I had a passion for sport and chose GCSEs and A’ levels to enable me to pursue a possible career in teaching or physiotherapy. I followed a lot of football and I was aware of physiotherapy’s involvement in sport. Additionally, I had seen a respiratory physiotherapist for my childhood asthma. Ultimately I decided against teaching, but I still wanted a sports-related career and I, therefore, decided to work towards a career as a physiotherapist.

I gained a BSc Honours degree in Physiotherapy

I graduated from Northumbria University in 2002, and at that point there were many junior physiotherapist posts in the NHS. I joined Gateshead Health NHS Foundation Trust as I’d really enjoyed a student placement there during my training. I completed my core junior rotations, and after 18 months I specialised in MSK and was a rotational MSK band six for eight years.

There didn’t seem to be an opportunity to progress in the NHS so I took the opportunity to travel

The NHS seemed to reach a saturation point for my kind of role at that point, and I was ready to progress my career. I took on more responsibility but without any obvious route for progression, I ended up spending six months in a campervan exploring the world and taking time out to consider my career options. Once I returned Helen Robson (Connect), who I had graduated and worked with previously, contacted me to say she thought I’d be a good fit for Connect’s Clinical Assessment and Treatment Service (CATS), and  I successfully applied for an ESP (now known as Advanced Physiotherapy Practitioner) post.

One of the things that struck me about Connect was the amount of support there was

Having worked for Gateshead NHS Trust I was aware of Connect, as its community MSK physio service was split 50/50 between the two providers and Connect went on to win the CATS contract. Once in post, the observation and direct supervision was better than I’d experienced before, and I was given really useful written and verbal feedback on my performance. There was a real focus on quickly identifying and fulfilling learning needs, and the structured framework for clinicians’ competencies was adapted from the Extended Scope Practitioner Professional Network (ESPPN, now APPN).

Connect is a really friendly company

You quickly get to know everyone, and there’s lots of team building. Everyone seems to be very driven, seeking to improve the company together. It’s an open culture. Although there’s a structure, you feel like you can speak to anyone and board members are really receptive to your ideas.

Leadership is generic throughout Connect

They recognise that clinicians need support as they progress in their careers, and have dedicated leadership and development training programmes, including an Institute of Leadership and Management course. There’s also a Bright Ideas programme for the more senior leadership team.

Connect gave me a really good grounding, as I continued to develop and wanted to go into a leadership role

The first opportunity was to take on responsibility for the triage service in Connect

I became the triage team leader and, whilst in this role, looked at developments to make the triage processes more efficient whilst maintaining patient safety and clinical quality.

We also provided a GPSI MSK training course

This structured training course was led by the ESPs and senior clinical team. They invited consultants in radiology, rheumatology, and orthopaedics to evening courses for all areas of the body for 12 months. For each module there was a formal assessment and each participant had to pass each module to be considered an extended scope practitioner (ESP). It was an outstanding course. It gave a much greater understanding of the pathways we could refer into and made the route from primary to secondary care more streamlined and efficient.

A move nearer to family prompted a change in jobs

In June 2017, my wife was expecting our third child so we took the decision to move nearer to family. Fortunately, my career history meant I secured a position as Deputy Head of Physiotherapy for North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust.

I’m enjoying my new role, but it takes more time for things to develop in the NHS

There’s a lot of development opportunity for me to be involved in here, and the move to an integrated care system means there is a requirement to integrate and further develop our MSK pathways and services throughout the region.

Connect gave a fantastic opportunity to develop whilst being fast-paced and fun

Connect provides you with ongoing career opportunities and progression into more senior clinical roles, operational roles or a mixture of the two. I’d recommend anyone looking for a leadership role or advanced clinical practice opportunities to consider Connect Health.

MSK clinical champion for Versus Arthritis
In November 2018, I was proud to be selected, alongside 14 successful candidates, onto the 18 month leadership development programme with Versus Arthritis in association with Ashridge Business School. This brings together people from all different backgrounds working with MSK patients to improve MSK pathways and services for the benefit of patients suffering with MSK disorders.

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

You can download Andy Reilly’s People Story here