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Overseas-educated physiotherapists continue to be a significant source of new physiotherapists to the UK

5 July 2005 - 9:10am

A new report from the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP) highlights the major contribution that overseas-trained physiotherapists make to the delivery of physiotherapy services in the UK labour market.

The report, International Recruitment of Physiotherapists, is the first publication to detail recent trends in the international recruitment of physiotherapists to the UK. It reveals that in recent years, on average, approximately one in three of the physiotherapists entering the UK labour market were recruited from overseas. In 1999, the figure was 29 per cent.

Commenting on the report, Phil Gray, chief executive of the CSP, said: 'The issue of international recruitment was highlighted in the Government's National Plan as one solution to boost NHS staff numbers in the short term. However, this report reveals the significant extent to which the UK already relies on international recruitment to fill the shortfall in UK-trained physiotherapists.

'The CSP recognises that promises regarding increased investment in the numbers of physiotherapists and training places for physiotherapy have been made by the Government. However, what is now essential is immediate action to promote retention of physiotherapists in order to ensure that the aims of the modern NHS can be met.'

The CSP report reveals that Australia, South Africa and New Zealand are the three main source countries for overseas-trained physiotherapists. Australia alone accounts for 44 per cent of all non-UK entrants to the UK physiotherapy labour market. In 1999, a total of 579 overseas-trained physiotherapists registered to work within the UK labour market.1

The report also describes the methods of international recruitment employed by NHS trusts, and the reasons why overseas-educated physiotherapists come to the UK. Information suggest that many overseas physiotherapists currently working in the UK plan to stay in the country for a relatively short period of time, one to two years maximum, and that many work in temporary positions within the NHS.

The UK labour market for physiotherapists is characterised by continuing high levels of staff shortages and unfilled vacancies. 2 These are set against year-on-year growth in the number of students entering physiotherapy. 3 Physiotherapy is the most popular degree course in the UK. 4

Phil Gray, CSP chief executive of the CSP, said: 'Physiotherapists and other professions allied to medicine (PAMs) have a leading role to play in delivering the Government's modernisation plans for the NHS, especially in regard to the proposed expansion of rehabilitation services.

'Given the current reported concern about shortages of physiotherapists in the UK, in terms of demand far outstripping supply, the reliance on non-UK sources has to be recognised as a major factor in the overall dynamics of the UK physiotherapy labour market. The CSP believes that there is a clear need to give more detailed policy consideration to their contribution.'


Notes for editors

Any physiotherapist who wishes to practise in the NHS, including those trained and registered outside the UK, has to be admitted to the register of the Council for the Professions Supplementary to Medicine (CPSM).

The 1999 Department of Health (DoH) vacancy, recruitment and retention survey reported an overall vacancy rate of 7.8 per cent for physiotherapists, with 3.5 per cent of all posts remaining vacant for three months or more. This long term vacancy rate rose to 4.0 per cent in 2000.

In the period from 1995 to 1999, the CSP recorded growth of 39 per cent in the annual number of qualifying physiotherapy students, up from 1024 to 1420.

UCAS figures show the ratio of applications to intake for physiotherapy degree courses in the UK in 1999 was 15.7 to 1, down from 16.8 to 1 in 1998.
International Recruitment of Physiotherapists was written by James Buchan, Queen Margaret University College, Edinburgh.

The professions allied to medicine (PAMs) are arts therapists, chiropodists, dieticians, occupational therapists, orthoptists, physiotherapists, radiographers and support staff in the NHS.

To arrange interviews with overseas-educated physiotherapists working in the UK, or for further information, contact the Communications Department at the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy on 0207 306 6628/16. The report may also be viewed on the CSP website at


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