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Chris Mercer: My Working Life

Published on: 20 Jul 2023

Chris Mercer: My Working Life


Do you have a morning routine – something you always start your working day doing? 

Always a cup of Yorkshire tea!


Can you describe your work/what you do in 1 sentence?

I am the clinical lead for a large team of physiotherapists and spinal practitioners and I have my fingers in lots of education, research and national leadership pies.


What did you want to be when you were at school/growing up?

I was never really sure, but knew I wanted to work in a healthcare/caring setting. My decision to opt for physiotherapy came on the back of my sporting interests and, to be honest, a real lack of knowledge about the breadth of speciality.


What 3 things make you skip to work?

  1. Interaction with patients. 

  2. The ability to help people make a difference to their lives. 

  3. I also love working with the team to help them develop their careers and seek new opportunities – watching the “new” generation grow and push the profession forward is hugely satisfying and inspiring.

What makes you frustrated at work?

It sometimes feels like we have lost our way and our focus in the NHS – the focus on productivity and activity has to be really carefully balanced with the priority of delivering high-quality patient centred care, and I’m not sure we have that balance right.

This includes support for staff to develop the wider aspects of being a healthcare professional, such as research, leadership and education, and the importance of this can sometimes get lost in the drive for activity.


Why would you recommend your career to a young person? 

I love my job and would definitely recommend it – it offers huge variety and opportunity, both for personal development and for influencing and being part of wider system change. It’s hugely rewarding and I get the chance to work with so many really talented people from a wide spectrum of backgrounds and roles.


What has been your biggest career disappointment or challenge and why, and how did you overcome it?

Being unsuccessful in applying for national doctoral programme funding. I overcame it by listening to my mum’s advice about “one door closing and another opening.” Working with some great folk to develop my research led to the opportunity to explore national strategic roles, which have opened up further new opportunities.

While I still have a hankering for further academic study and doing a PhD, I am also happy with the way things have developed and the opportunities I have been able to take as a result of the knock back.


What was your best career move?

Taking a punt on the consultant role – there were two in the country at the time I did, so it was unknown territory – scary and exciting!


What qualities do you think you need to do your job well?

A thick skin, a sense of humour and a passion to make things better!


What 3 words would your colleagues use to describe you?

Hard-working/caring/passionate (I hope!)


What’s the best advice you’ve ever got from a patient or work colleague? 

Be yourself, be kind, be vulnerable and listen!


If you could go back in time and give one piece of career advice to your younger self, what would it be? 

Do it all again!


What do you do to relax?

I love to kick box and get out into the country for long dog walks and a well-earned pint of ale in a nice pub. My own selfish “happy place” is in the ocean with my surfboard occasionally catching a half-decent wave.


What do you hope will be your legacy to your profession and colleagues? 

I hope I’ll have helped a few folk develop their careers and will have helped establish advanced practice and consultant physiotherapy roles as part of the norm.


Is the thought of retirement a dream or a nightmare – and why?

A bit of both. I love my work but I love my family and friends more and the thought of spending more time with them is very attractive. I will always find things to do and have so many places yet to see!


Are you an extrovert or introvert and why? 

It depends on where I am, what I am doing, and who I am with. I think people would say I am more extrovert, but I’d say I’m more of an introvert and a good blagger!


Who has been your biggest inspiration?

It’s hard to name just one but Professor Ann Moore, who was the first professor of physiotherapy, was a great mentor and facilitator. Clinically, Sue Greenhalgh, a consultant physiotherapist and expert in serious spinal pathology, is passionate about making a difference, as well as being kind, supportive and great fun to work with


What is your guiltiest pleasure?

Dolly Parton’s “I will always love you”!



Chris Mercer qualified as a physiotherapist at King’s College Hospital, London. After qualifying in 1989, he went to work in various roles in London hospitals (Queen Mary’s Hospital in Roehampton, University College Hospital and St George’s Hospital in Tooting) before moving to Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals, Sussex.

In between these roles he also worked as a physiotherapist in New Zealand and Australia in the mid-late 1990s. He took up his consultant post at University Hospitals Sussex NHS Foundation Trust in 2003.

Always interested in serious spinal pathology and advanced practice, he has chaired various national groups including the Musculoskeletal Association of Chartered Physiotherapists, the education awards panel for the Chartered Society of Physiotherapists, the National Consultant Professional Network and the Sussex MSK Partnership. His main publications have been focused on red flag management of the spine.