Memories from WCPT 2017-Cape Town

What an amazing experience… What a trip…It looks like ages ago but it was not that long since some of us attended the WCPT conference in South Africa this summer. I was blessed to be there, present and meet so many people from around the world-curious physiotherapists and lovers of our profession.

The trip was long; 21 hours of travelling through Europe to get to Cape Town, a populous urban area in South Africa. What not to admire there? The rocky mountain range that drops into a glittering sea, the slopes of the Table Mountain, the Cape of Good Hope, the National Botanical Garden, the vineyards, the urban edge of the city with its seaside bars and restaurants or the beauty of the wild animals that you see only in the movies?

Oh, and Penguins!! How could I forget about them!!

A very busy week arose for us as the opening ceremony. The conference started with traditional music and speeches from inspiring colleagues of our Physiotherapy Society; poster presentations, networking sessions, research, discussion platforms, open debates and the “indaba” open space sessions. We attended as many sessions as we could, keeping notes, meeting people, creating discussions around current topics and dilemmas. Amazed of how some things we take for granted  in our profession, seem far and unreal for colleagues is other areas of the world. And things we have not thought and researched about yet are already an innovation in other places! But all of us were thirsty to learn or contribute to the physiotherapy society. We all had a special role regardless if we were practitioners, educators, students, researchers focusing in different disciplines and with different experiences.

From my side, the presentation went very well. I was pleased to see that people were interested in occupational health and the issues related to this topic. I met colleagues with important roles and a diverse background, discussed about issues in the UK and what is happening elsewhere and had also the ability to talk about the current issues and the challenges ahead.

In a small summary:

Musculoskeletal conditions cause disability and distress, increase the healthcare costly demands and reduce productivity due to sick loss days and impaired work performance. The majority of European countries report that musculoskeletal diseases are the most prevalent of all occupational diseases with Italy, Germany, Austria and the United Kingdom (UK) to reach over 82%. The Labour force survey in 2015, demonstrated that 44% of the employees taking sick leave suffered from musculoskeletal pain. Recently, the Trade Union Congress report depicted that 83.6% employees were forced to stop working before the State Pension Age due to musculoskeletal disorders. Prevention and management of work disability and sick leave is high on the agenda of the UK Government. During the last decade, numerous organisations and professional bodies have published reports with recommendations that target the health and well-being of workers. However, results from the latest Engineering Employers’ Federation UK survey (2015) highlighted that “the government’s fit note isn’t working”. Equivalent results emerged from an evaluation study for the Advice Lines service (2012) because action on an employee’s health issues was not always taken after a call. Between 2011 and 2013 the European Trade Union Institute compared the national occupational health service across Europe, but no data were offered for the UK. The report stated that occupational health services are not provided by a specialised healthcare professional (HCP) but rather by general practitioners or HCP’s who may have no occupational health training and perspective on the practice of a workplace (Schömann 2014). In addition, the service “fit for work” covers only sickness absence of four weeks or more, which would not address health conditions that could benefit from earlier intervention. Although evaluation reports for these services have been published, it is still unknown if these recommendations and policies are implemented and to what extent they are used in the UK.

You can find more information about the literature review and the presentation in our Univeristy site at:


Glykeria Skamagki,

Lecturer in Physiotherapy

Coventry University