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Physiotherapy services feedback

The year ahead looks set to be one of tightening belts. Robert Millett reports on a recent CSP survey of physiotherapy managers' experiences.

A new CSP survey of physiotherapy services shows that NHS cuts and savings are adversely affecting patient services and dramatically increasing the demands on staff.

The survey, carried out in early autumn, invited feedback from physiotherapy service managers at all 274 NHS organisations in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

Early analysis of the results has revealed that, of the 147 respondents, over half report having insufficient resources to meet the demand for physiotherapy during the current financial year.

The survey also reveals that the vast majority of managers (87%) expect that the demand for physiotherapy services will rise over the coming year, but most (60%) reported that they do not expect to have sufficient resources to meet this rise in demand.

More than half of the managers (61%) said their services had seen a reduction in physiotherapy staffing levels and, despite the expected rise in demand, a similar number (60%) said it was likely that their services would experience further cuts to physiotherapy staffing levels in the coming year.

Constraints

The impact of budgetary constraints has also been felt. A fifth of managers reported that they have had to make cuts to patient services in the financial year 2011-12.

Almost two thirds of managers (61.5%) reported that there had been an increase in the proportion of staff employed on short term and back contracts.

Additionally, an equal proportion (61.5%) indicated that they had experienced no backfill for posts that had been made vacant due to maternity or long term sick leave.

More than half of the respondents (53%) confirmed that vacancy control procedures were causing significant delays to the filling of all or most vacant posts.

The financial constraints were also impacting on staff’s ability to be innovative, the survey shows. Nearly half of all physiotherapy managers (47%) said that inadequate staffing levels were obstructing them from redesigning and modernising their service.

Four out of every five managers (82%) reported that their staff had experienced significantly increased workloads over the past year.

Under stress

Stress levels amongst staff were also reported to have also risen over the last year, according to 72 per cent of managers.

Half of all managers (50%) reported that their organisation had experienced a reduction in the number of Band 8 physiotherapy posts over the past year.

Commenting on the findings Kate Moran, head of employment research, said:

‘The survey results show the difficult circumstances that members are facing, but the CSP is working hard to provide tools and advice to support members in protecting services and jobs.'

She added that these include resources such as a briefing paper to support physiotherapy managers and leaders, entitled ‘The contribution of physiotherapy management and leadership in health care’, which specifically lays out the arguments for maintaining clinical physiotherapy posts.

Waiting times

The survey also collected information on physiotherapy service waiting times from physiotherapy managers.

The intial results indicate that waiting times in many places are rising because of a combination of increased demand and factors such as vacancy freezes or the removal of posts.

Dr Gabrielle Rankin, CSP research adviser, says the findings of the survey provide essential information about the state of physiotherapy outpatient services across all four countries.

‘Waiting times have increased for more than 40 per cent of organisations and 88 per cent of organisations have reported that an increase in referrals is contributing to this rise,’ said Ms Rankin.

The survey also found that the majority of organisations (67%) cited unfilled staff vacancies as one of the main contributing factors to increasing waiting times. More than half (63%) reported that vacancy control measures were a factor and sixty per cent said there was a causal link between a reduction in permanent staff and increased waiting times.

However, as previously reported in Frontline (21 November) 33 per cent of managers reported that they did not have the necessary data to provide the survey with accurate details on waiting times in outpatient services.

Natalie Beswetherick, the CSP’s director of practice and development, expressed disappointment at the lack of complete feedback from some services.

‘I am very concerned that a significant minority of respondents did not have access to basic data about their services – despite the CSP highlighting the importance of collecting data to all managers and clinicians for the services they provide,’ said Ms Beswetherick.

‘If providers do not have this basic information they will not be able to demonstrate their service is clinically and cost effective, nor demonstrate it’s added value to commissioners and planners.’

The CSP is holding a survival guide workshop for managers and clinical leaders on 21 January 2013 in London to help them develop and promote their physiotherapy business. For further details visit www.csp.org.uk/survivalevents

The society’s Employment Relations and Union Services have produced a guide to ‘Protecting the Grades of Members Working in the NHS’. Visit: www.csp.org.uk/protectinggrades

To download ‘The contribution of physiotherapy management and leadership in health care’ visit: www.csp.org.uk/physiomanagement

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