My split role as an FCP and Team Lead is the perfect balance

Laura McColl, First Contact Practitioner and FCP Team Lead, explains how she was inspired to become a Physiotherapist after seeing her mother’s recovery journey, and how she has developed her career and is now able to help even more people.

20 June 2024

When I was 15, my mum was in a car accident

My brother and I spent a lot of our time in the hospital, encouraging my mum to complete her physiotherapy rehab after her accident, giving her motivation and even helping out the Physiotherapist. I continued to take on the ‘role’ of Physiotherapist when she was discharged home and in between her rehab appointments. It was inspiring to see how somebody who was bed-bound after an accident could become high functioning and fit again with physiotherapy. It made me want to improve lives in the same way.


I went straight into the NHS from university

I studied Physiotherapy in Huddersfield before starting my junior rotations in 2002 in the South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust. I progressed
in my career until the services contract was transferred over to Connect Health in 2015 where I joined the team as a Senior Physiotherapist. The process went very smoothly for me. Connect Health honoured my working schedule and I continued to work 2 days a week.


Working a split role is challenging but varied

I have a varied role as a First Contact Practitioner (FCP) and Team Lead and no two days are the same! Although, this split role allows me to gain managerial experience, help with workforce planning and deliver training, whilst still working as a physiotherapist.

In my FCP role, I assess patients with a range of complex conditions, offering diagnosis and management options. I provide onward referral to the physiotherapy team, referrals on to consultants and link up with social prescribers and local charities to provide support where needed. I spend a lot of my time listening to and reassuring patients, and providing them with resources.

As the South Tyneside contract is the biggest FCP service in the UK, we have the opportunity to spread our learnings nationally and not just within Connect Health. Due to this, in 2023 I was seconded as a National Supervisor to help train new FCPs and keep them aligned with Health Education England, making sure everyone is reaching the right standard. In this secondment, I supervise the clinicians and help them to build roadmaps to demonstrate their competency.

I have just finished my non-medical prescribing training which will allow me to prescribe within my role as an FCP too.


People come to see FCPs instead of seeing their GP

Our training helps us provide thorough assessments, offer appropriate diagnoses, and use shared decision making to help support patients in managing their conditions. Our aim is to get people to the right place, first time.


There are high expectations that come from working in an FCP role, but this encourages colleagues to strive for excellence.


At Connect Health you are encouraged to develop yourself professionally, and personally, too

You have dedicated time within your working hours for continued professional development (CPD), plus you also have opportunities outside of the company to push yourself and really showcase your own expertise.

During my time at Connect, I have had the chance to present at the North East Musculoskeletal (MSK) Society after an audit abstract was published at the Physiotherapy UK conference. We have also had an article published in the physiotherapy Frontline magazine regarding the innovative student placement we provided in FCP.


You have guidance available to you no matter what your seniority

Normally, once you reach a certain level in healthcare you stop receiving the amount of support that would be offered to you in a more junior role, but at Connect Health you have the opportunity to continue to receive clinical guidance at any level. There is also a huge amount of trust and respect between colleagues, meaning that you can manage your own time, especially when it comes to admin tasks.


The support at Connect Health comes full circle. Senior members of the team are always there to give guidance to others, but the more junior members offer invaluable support to their colleagues too. Everyone is recognised as an essential part of Connect.


At Connect Health you are able to choose your own path

There is no set route to continue to develop your career. Connect Health gives you the freedom to progress in various directions which are suited to your goals. There really is something for everyone.

The FCP role is a challenging but incredibly rewarding one and works well alongside a number of other specialties, from Advanced Physiotherapy Practitioners (APP) to Clinical Leads. The team in South Tyneside is friendly and approachable and I’ve found that they are always helpful and supportive.



To find out more about working at Connect Health, contact

Click here to download Laura McColl’s Story