Connect is challenging but very rewarding. The flexibility of working around family life has been a huge benefit for me.

Deb Barrett, Community Services and Occupational Health Physiotherapy Team Leader, talks about how Connect has supported the development of her career to date, but also provided great flexibility and work-life balance.

19 January 2020

I was really amazed as a child, at how the physio helped my dad recover from an accident

My interest in physio stemmed from seeing my dad recover from a horrible car accident. I attended an appointment with him when I was about 10 years of age and I was really impressed by how his multiple injuries were treated. So I worked through my qualifications and achieved my physio degree at Sheffield Hallam University.

Following my degree, I started working at Mansfield Kingsmill Hospital as a junior physio and carried out rotations in different areas. I became a senior physio in respiratory and worked in high dependency units for 2 years. In the meantime,  I was also interested in MSK and worked for a private company, working evenings and later I split my hours across both jobs.

I joined Connect in April 2007 as Senior Physio

Then in 2007, I saw an advert for Connect in Frontline magazine and was really interested. It seemed really different from what I had experienced before.

The thing that attracted me to Connect was that it seemed to have a fresh approach to physio when comparing my experience in the NHS.

There was variety in the company with clinics, occupational health and NHS work and in addition to that, they offered the Accelerated Development Programme (ADP) which was the right way to develop my MSK skills. It was also local to me (having moved to Nottingham for my training and work), so it was an easy move and the job brought me back home.

I was quickly able to develop as an individual

I came in as a senior physio and worked between community services and occupational health. I had the opportunity to dip in and out of the ADP programme which is an 8-month weekly programme that is built into your timetable. Because I had work experience already, it was left to me to access the training in areas I lacked confidence, picking the modules I needed. It was a great way to meet people and get to know colleagues from around the company. I moved to a Team Leader role in 2009 in community services.

Connect is very forward thinking and barriers to change just aren’t there

I really liked the fact that if something wasn’t working, we could make changes to processes and if it worked, it would be adopted. There weren’t all the barriers that you may experience in the NHS and larger companies. The other attractive thing was the range of opportunities available – you could work in NHS community service or occupational health and there’s scope for lots of variety in your working week.

The flexible working is hugely beneficial

Having two young children, the flexibility of working around your family life has been a huge benefit for me. I work 3.5 days per week and as well as managing a contract in occupational health, I am the team leader in South Tyneside. The pace of change can be difficult to keep on top of, particularly after having my second child in 2016, so coming back, it felt a bit daunting, but the change has been really exciting and positive. I’ve settled back into it because things are so flexible – you make it work for you and the managers are very open to having those conversations and make sure you’re not struggling.

My advice to others is to be open and honest

Communicate what you’re looking for and what works for you. My experience is that Connect will really accommodate things you need as an individual as well as what works for the company. At the moment I’m straddling both community and occupational health roles. In the near future, I want to focus on what I want to do as soon my son will be in full-time school and that gives me a lot more scope as to the opportunities available.

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

Click here to download Deb Barrett’s Story

Working with the NHS

Occupational Health Physiotherapy Services

Women’s Health project in South Tyneside

After following evidence and an increase in referrals from mid-wives and GPs about maternity belts and support, we felt there didn’t seem to be a service available to support these ladies. So a group of us looked at how we could make women’s health a real part of our MSK service. We wanted to make sure patients were getting the best care so we had extra training on women’s health and set up a weekly clinic. We’re planning a monthly seminar as we found the need was mainly educationally based. We looked at self-help and common problems through pregnancy with a view to promoting self-management in order to reduce the fear and anxiety around those common symptoms.

We’re also rolling it out across our occupational health services and extending to additional services including menopause, in order to support women better in the workplace. We’ve developed patient information leaflets to help employers and employees and we’ve included women’s health factors within our workplace assessment reports. We have also delivered workshops and seminars to companies about this topic.