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Fears over cuts in student places

The CSP has warned the government that further cutbacks in student training places will lead to serious shortages of physiotherapists within a few years.

The Society has given evidence for the claim in its submission to an assessment of workforce priorities by the NHS Workforce Review Team.

The WRT has predicted the supply of physiotherapists in England will grow steadily, equating to 22 per cent over the next five years, with numbers rising to 30,000 by 2020. It said there was a considerable risk of oversupply if current NHS employment levels remained stable.

The WRT has therefore suggested strategic health authorities ‘may need to make a small reduction in training commissions in order to ensure a sustainable workforce’.

But the CSP has challenged the supply modelling used by the review team to justify the recommendation, and warned against further SHA cuts.

In its submission, the Society says the WRT’s forecast headcount assumes that the trend in workforce numbers between 1996 and 2007 will continue. Although the qualified physiotherapy workforce rose 45 per cent between 1996 and 2005, since 2005 the trend has changed dramatically, says the CSP.

The Society cites a one per cent reduction in headcount in 2005-2006 and an increase of just 1.6 per cent in 2006–2007.

It rejects the WRT  prediction of 30,000 qualified physios in post by 2020.

The CSP has explained how demand for physiotherapy will grow in the long term because of the need to meet a large number of government priorities in health and social care and other factors. It says some SHAs have gone beyond the 10 per cent limit urged by the WRT in a previous report, making 25 per cent cuts in training commissions this year.

The Society adds: ‘If graduate numbers drop to 1,600 or lower from 2011 there will be insufficient physiotherapists to meet future demand.’

The CSP urges SHAs and service commissioners to talk with local physio service managers to ensure needs are met and that there are sufficient numbers of training places being commissioned.

Kate Moran, CSP head of employment research, said: ‘We are very concerned that there could be a return to the boom and bust years that we have experienced in the past. In recent years physiotherapy roles, settings and scope of practice have been evolving to meet developments in health and well-being services, but without sufficient numbers of physiotherapists in the future this potential will not be maximised.’ 

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