Dr Bhanu Ramaswamy Physiotherapist and Advocate

An interview with Dr Bhanu Ramaswamy Physiotherapist and Advocate: Working within the Parkinson’s community on January 1, 2024 by George Ackerman, Ph.D, J.D.




Dr Bhanu Ramaswamy OBE is an Independent Physiotherapy Consultant based in Sheffield, United Kingdom and an Honorary Visiting Fellow at Sheffield Hallam University.

Bhanu left her position as a Consultant Physiotherapist in the National Health Service (NHS), leading a multi-disciplinary Intermediate Care team to follow an increasing desire for promoting the health of older people and those with Parkinson’s (Bhanu’s two fields of specialism). As part of this career direction, Bhanu now works across the health, the charitable and independent sectors to promote a holistic provision of physiotherapy so people can stay as well as possible.

Bhanu’s career has included contributions to chapters of various books for multi-professional readership as well published work related to her rehabilitation role and to her field of interest – particularly Parkinson’s. She continues to be involved in both national and international strategic projects for the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP), lectures and presents (inter)nationally plus maintains clinical practice in and around Sheffield.


Although Bhanu is a strong believer that the specific skills of a physiotherapist profession can assist individuals to fulfil their optimal physical potential, she also strongly advocates that for people to stay well, the process requires collaborative, shared management with other professionals and services. This area of work forms the basis of this interview.



Please tell me a little about your background.


I qualified as a physiotherapist in 1988 and always knew I would work with older people following in the footsteps of my father, a geriatrician.


In the 1990s, I volunteered time with the charity Parkinson’s UK in addition to my health service job after members from the local group helped me with one of the modules for my Master’s degree. After this, I found myself increasingly drawn into the world of Parkinson’s as the majority of those affected were in their 70s or older.


When I first became involved in the charity, the benefits of physiotherapy were known anecdotally, but little was evidenced as to what worked and why. The rest of my career has been spent trying to find this out!


Can you tell me more about your organization?


I am a self-employed physiotherapist. My main clinical work is through a Sheffield private practice, but the independent nature of my paid and unpaid work permits me to broaden my sights and to cross many boundaries with no ulterior motive other than to see what will work for clients and those I come across through the charity, Parkinson’s UK.


I therefore find myself networking and liaising with professionals who work for the local National Health Services, with Local Authority service care providers, with fitness professionals form the Sports and Leisure Industries, and increasingly over the past 2 decades working alongside people with Parkinson’s to look into the services they need, rather than what providers can offer.


What is your passion and how did you get involved in Parkinson’s awareness and hope for a cure?

I am a people person so in my volunteering role for the Sheffield Parkinson’s Support Group, I have helped organise small events every April around World Parkinson’s Day to bring people together and explore aspects of the condition they want to know more about.


Some of this informed my Doctoral Thesis over a decade ago and firmly moved me from advocating pure physiotherapy values, to the ones I hold of shared management.


The Sheffield group was fortunate in being left a large legacy which we have divided to provide three consecutive years of bigger (and better) Awareness Raising Days (2022 – 2024) than we could previously afford. As the named lead in organizing these large events, each time the event is over and I have time to reflect on it, I am more inspired to advocate to raise awareness of the condition given the increasing numbers being diagnosed with Parkinson’s and the thirst for information. Not all knowledge about living with Parkinson’s can be read about or provided by health professionals; people affected by the condition need opportunities to connect with one another and learn through the sharing of experiences.


With regards a cure, I leave that to the scientific researchers who seem to be increasingly piecing together aspects of the HUGE puzzle that is Parkinson’s! Part of the awareness raising I do is to alert people either of the results of research or to spread the word when new trials are trying to recruit people to them.


What type of goals do individuals with Parkinson’s have when working with you?


That depends if they come to see me as a physiotherapist or as an advocate through the charity.

Clinical physiotherapy goals are easy to set, as they usually involve improving or teaching people and their families how to manage the physical side of Parkinson’s, although I will admit that achieving them is not always easy!


As a committee member of the local charity group, I can support people differently as people want different things. I have the opportunity to help establish different groups e.g. for Working-age people with Parkinson’s; for Carers or family; for exercise classes and so on, gradually withdrawing my input as the group takes off. My role also varies from lecturing to members about exercise, activity and physiotherapy, to organizing class contracts and filling Risk Assessments for different events.


What effect can it have on an individual with Parkinson’s?


People in England (where I live and work) expect free health or care services; many are older and living on a pension so would not immediately try and access private care. However, the free health and social services are progressively tightening, with more limited remits and time scales. Sometime the provision is not the right service at the right time for what an individual needs.

Volunteering for a charity allows more open-mindedness with a broader view of health and wellness advocacy giving people with Parkinson’s the ability to explore their own needs, and in their own time, sometimes, not in a conventional sense!


The fundraising we do as a charity allows for intervention to be carried out into the longer term. For a condition that is progressive in nature, this is extremely important.


What events do you participate in?


Too many to name here, but some of my favorite include the following:

I was co-founder of the UK Parkinson’s Exercise Professionals Hub in 2015 with another physiotherapist, Beccy Oliver. There were 10 people around a table at our first meeting, and we have grown to a group of over 500 interested professionals delivering exercise intervention to people with Parkinson’s across the UK, with an annual conference.


This photo was taken of those who attended the first conference in 2018, assisted by staff at Parkinson’s UK.

As a member of UK physiotherapy networks of older people and of neurology, I have been involved in standard setting at national level and also international standards for Parkinson’s-related guidance. This work still gets me involved in international lecturing e.g. in 2019 in Geneva.


And then in June 2023 to people with an interest in Parkinson’s in South Yorkshire and Derbyshire regions of the UK.

Or facilitating workshops for physiotherapists teaching them about Parkinson’s with a model who has Parkinson’s.


I was nominated by a Sheffield member with Parkinson’s to be one of the 2012 Olympic Torch bearers when it came through Sheffield – I can’t begin to describe how proud I felt that day, but I think the grin helps show it.


How does this also assist the caregivers?


Most of the Awareness events I participate in are open to anyone affected by Parkinson’s, and often half the audience is a family member or a formal carer. They learn more about the condition and also share experiences of living with someone with the condition.

I also arrange walks and physical activity events on weekends – there are always caregivers (and pets!) at these, and the caregivers love to mingle, talk with and learn from one another, gaining support from others who are experiencing a similar journey. The events permit them time with others who have Parkinson’s too, so they can compare and contrast their personal journey.


How can someone get in touch?  What is your website?


People find me through Parkinson’s UK or through the clinic I work for.


How can others also become advocates for awareness?


Parkinson’s UK are always looking for people to get involved locally and/or nationally. If you are a professional, it is worth joining the Excellence Network (all free!), and the Exercise Professionals Hub if you deliver exercise intervention for people with Parkinson’s.


In your opinion what is the key to effective advocacy? 




In general, health professionals are trained to think they must lead a consultation and find solutions to problems people present with. Whilst we are taught how important it is to listen, I would push more for professionals to see any meeting as an opportunity to engage more collaboratively, allowing people to be themselves whilst exploring ways to support their needs. We need to stop pushing our agendas.


How can we better fundraise to support a cure for Parkinson’s?


I think people do this best once they are affected by a condition or know someone close who has it. I don’t know about elsewhere in the world, but Parkinson’s UK is collaborating with larger charities on campaigns e.g. We are undefeatable ( and sporting bodies e.g. England Golf (,practice%20in%20the%20below%20document). I think this makes people more aware and they are more open to contributing to causes such as Parkinson’s.


If you had one song that would tell us more about you or represent your life which song would it be?


Jingle Bells – and not because it is Christmas! I am afraid I get told off for breaking into the chorus throughout the year – it is just such a fun song; it lifts my spirits and can’t see that it doesn’t lift everyone else’s!


If you had one final statement or quote you could leave for the Parkinson’s community, what would it be?


I am a Gemini, so never have just one. My January 2024 quote however is:

If you don’t like something change it; if you can’t change it, change the way you think about it’ by the artist Mary Engelbreit