Courses for Horses….Whats wrong with the world of CPD

All good health professionals have to demonstrate Continual Professional Development, or CPD as its known, not just for the legal and official reasons, but all clinicians should also have a desire to constantly seek out new research and evidence that is constantly emerging within this industry to ensure that they stay at the top of the game and more importantly give patients and clients the most effective, reliable, safe advice and treatment.

Unfortunately some clinicians don’t, due to multiple reasons such as laziness, lack of interest or worst of all, arrogance that they know it all, we all have met a few of these clinicians (usually the ones with their polo shirt collars popped up!)
But there are many clinicians that do try to keep abreast of all the research and evidence, however there is just way too much for ‘normal’ busy therapists working days, evenings and weekends, to keep on top of it all. I remember reading this article in the gaurdian on how there just aren’t enough ‘specialists’ or ‘experts’ in the world to fully peer review all the papers published, for example in 2006 1.3 million, yes million scientific papers where published, that’s staggering, this means a lot of the research that gets published is not peer reviewed and so can be really really poor.
This means us ‘working’ physios do rely heavily on researchers and or ‘specialist experts’ to search and sift through all these research papers and filter out the crap, irrelovant mumbo-jumbo and bring to our attention the most relevant, scientific and evidenced based bits and feed this back to us in a clear conscience and simple form.
This normally comes delivered in the form of post graduate courses, these can range from a evening lecture, to a full weeks practical workshop and anywhere in between. There are many company’s that organise these courses, advertising them with relish and vigour, with flashy titles, fancy biographies, all bells and whistles going trying to attract us to attend, usually at a cost on average of £150-£200 per day.
Now I have been a physio for a while, and estimate that I have attended well over 40 post graduate courses at a cost I reckon of not far of £10,000, however in the last few years I haven’t attended one.
That’s not because I am one of those ‘collar popped’ up clinicians that thinks I know it all, far from it, it’s because recently ive realised that these ‘expert’ lead courses I have been on have been a giant waste of my time, but more importantly a waste of my hard earned money.
For instance I attended a two day workshop on ‘Activating your patients’ last year that promised…

“instant results”

“improve a straight leg raise by 40 degrees immediately”

“change the way you practice physio forever”

There was a whole host of testimonials and recommendations from other physios, celebrities, sportsmen etc etc
Now my ‘bullshit’ alarm bells were ringing a little bit already but I thought hey ‘it can’t be false, and they cant lie about this stuff can they’ its been advertised in our professional magazine!
Well guess what they can… To cut a long story short the techniques where nothing new, just basics but covered up with some Derren Brown style mystic smoke and mirrors rubbish, with not a shred of evidence to back them up and not one published paper, although it was constantly stated throughout the course there were papers coming soon and our data shows this and that, but we weren’t allowed to see it, I still haven’t seen anything years later although I keep seeing the course being run monthly!!!
I wont fully name the course for obvious reasons, but basically the solo guy with the idea’s and doing the presenting was a showman, very charismatic, passionate and confident about what he believed and projected himself well, but it was all bravado, with lots of unsubstantiated anecdotes on how he ‘Activated’ his clients with which he used so many name drops, I needed a broom to sweep the floor on my way out.
Another two day workshop I attended claimed to be for ‘advanced skills, techniques for rehab and prevention of shoulder injuries in sports’
Unfortunately for me most of the stuff they demonstrated and talked about was basics, great for newly qualifed or junior physios but no advanced or new techniques. The course ‘expert’ didn’t once discuss or demonstrate any difference for treatment or rehab for a professional sportsman compared to any another patient, in fact, I found out afterwards, she had never worked in a professional sports environment at all!!
Finally the last straw was a one day lecture on ‘low back pain, the current research and what we all should be doing now’. I had to endure a whole day of listening to some researcher going through all his own research for the last 10 years, which coincidentally I had read most of already, and although the research was of good quality and provided evidence for some of the techniques we as physios use, he came to no new conclusions, instead finished off the day by saying…

“we should continue what we are already doing”


That was it, something inside me snapped and I said enough is enough, especially as the only thing I got out of that lecture was backache, and I haven’t been on a another course since.
That’s not to say I don’t do my CPD, far from it, as a member of some professional associations such as BESS (British Elbow and Shoulder Society) and ACSPM I attend their annual conferences which are much better organised and evidence based, as well as doing all my own reading etc, I just think I’m done with these so called ‘expert’ lead workshops/courses.
Now I’m hoping this isn’t sounding too much like a rant or a moan or making me sound pig headed, but I do feel something is fundamentally wrong in the world of post graduate courses for physiotherapists and possibly other like minded professions.
For starters there doesn’t seem to be any regulation of this post grad CPD industry, I think the CSP and the HPC need to step in and look to ensure the quality of the company’s that host post graduate courses. For instance, I’ve noticed that one company who runs a lot of these post graduate courses advertises for its expert speakers with this…

“Do you have a specialism? Do you think you can present well? Then call us about running your own course”

… what, really, I have a specialism, I can present well does that make me an expert in my field, NO…
There also isn’t any transpancey on feedback and testimonials on these courses, I’ve never once seen any negative feedback on any course on any website so how can we judge for ourselves.
Now some may argue that negative feedback can be an excuse for people to moan etc etc and can lead to abuse etc etc, but I don’t think so, we can all see if a comment is sourness or moaning for moaning sake compared to a genuine negative comment. For example I regularly use Trip Advisor for restaurants and just because there are a few negative comments it doesn’t mean I won’t eat there.

In summary I feel that the world and industry of the post graduate course company and their presenters seems a bit too cash hungry. They all look too have jumped onto a band wagon to make a quick buck at the expense of us hardworking and contentious physios who want to do the best for our patients, and I for one would like to see this change soon.

NB: I am now aware that this blog may look and sound hypocritical to some reading as you may have noticed that I am now regularly hosting my own CPD courses as well as lecture and talk at various events, however what I hope I do differently than some if those other course I mentioned is 1) not claim to have all the answers and 2) not mislead and give false impressions of providing something new and revolutionary in therapy, because I ain’t. Instead my CPD events are very much the opposite, I’m more for getting back to basics and cutting through the mountains of bullshit
Also there are some very, very good CPD courses out there with some excellent teachers but they are hard to find and seem to be over shadowed by the big marketing, money grabbing machine that is CPD advertising companies, my advice, go on personal recommendations

What do you all think?




  1. Hi,
    Thanks for starting blogging. Really enjoying your work so far. Keep up the good work.
    Great comment on the CPD and it astounds me every time people go ‘I’ve been on such and such a course’ but at the end of the day they don’t practice what they have learned. But the money spent looks great on the CV.

  2. Hi Adam,
    Thanks for the great blog! I am still a relative baby in the Physio world, I graduated from my pre-reg masters just over 2 years ago. Eager to move my CV and knowledge forward I have attended a number of expensive courses and even at the early stages of my career I am finding them bitterly disappointing and uninformative. The best infomation seems to come from conferences, but on the whole the post grad courses just don’t cut the mustard. Being post grad courses I expect them to be delivered at a high level, and at least, replicate the level of teaching I experienced in my MSc to qualify as a Physio, but most fail to achieve this!

    • Hi Dan
      Thanks for your comments, I totally agree most of the post grad courses seem to be more interested in making money than passing on good quality info and skills.
      To many people are classing themselves as experts in the field with no accreditation or true credentials, there is no regulation or honest feedback displayed on the courses, all which I think is appalling behaviour for a professional medical organisation
      As you say conferences and MSc modules seem to be the only areas that offer hope

  3. Enjoyed the read Adam! Unfortunately, I find this happens across most professions. The coin is just too good, and people are tripping over each other in the desperate hunt for ways (techniques) of standing out of the crowd (and so, no one do). The inherent marketing-value of continuous reading, plausible reasoning and cut-through-the-bullshit practice, sadly, is way underestimated i.m.o.

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