Physiotherapy post-Brexit

The UK government has issued further advice on what would happen if the UK leaves the European Union (EU) without agreements in key area relevant to physiotherapy.

September 2018: Brexit update

Rights at work – The government’s official position is that employment rights would be largely unchanged as they are part of UK law. However, there are concerns that TUPE and atypical workers’ rights could be amended to the detriment of CSP members. The CSP is working through the TUC on this issue.

European physios and support staff – The UK government has been seeking to reassure European health care staff that they will be able to stay and are positively welcomed. However, arrangements have not yet agreed with the EU and administrative and cost hurdles seem likely to remain in place. The CSP is working through the Cavendish Coalition on this issue.

Research – The UK Government has guaranteed to match Horizon programme funding post Brexit. We are working through the AMRC on this issue.

Medicines and medical devices - The UK government position is that if there is no deal EU standards will continue to be used and recognised in the UK, but with different admin arrangements.

June 2018: European Union citizen settlement scheme


The UK government has given partial clarification on post Brexit arrangements for physiotherapists and support workers who are European Union (EU) nationals. EU nationals resident in the UK before the end of 2020 will be able to apply online for settled status. They will need to prove their identity, their residence in the UK and be subject to criminal conviction checks.

The government are keen to reassure NHS staff in particular. The health minister, James O’Shaughnessy said: “Everybody working in physiotherapy from the EU has a significant and important role in the NHS. The new online process will give reassurance to all EU citizens living in the UK who work in the NHS and social care that they can simply secure their status. It should be a reminder of how much we value their vital work.”

Whilst the statement is welcome, the CSP is concerned that the full details of the scheme are not yet available. There are no details of arrangements for European physiotherapists or support workers who come to the UK after 2020. Nor has there been any reassurance for colleagues from Norway, Switzerland, Iceland or Liechtenstein.

Find out more about the scheme

There has been no announcement on reciprocal arrangements for British national physios working in Europe.

June 2017: May's offer to European nationals

The UK government has apparently offered European nationals who have lived in the UK for more than five years permanent residency post-Brexit.

It has also indicated that those EEA citizens who have spent less than five years in the UK will be able to earn the right to residency after the UK leaves the European Union.

The offer is conditional on the EU guaranteeing similar rights for British citizens living in Europe.

The CSP believes that all European physiotherapists, student and support staff in the UK should be able to live and work in the UK after Brexit. We estimate that there is a shortage of around 4000 physios across the country. The loss of European colleagues would hit patient care. The CSP also has British members working in Europe who are concerned about their futures.

Commenting on the latest development CSP strategy director Rob Yeldham said:

'This is a move in the right direction, but the government should go further. All EEA citizens legally in the UK at the point of Brexit should continue to have the same rights to live, work and learn in the UK as they have now. The five year requirement is a barrier we don't need.

'We also need to see a clear signal from the EU that the rights of British citizens in Europe will continue after we leave the European Union.'

The CSP is lobbying the UK Government on the rights of overseas physiotherapists. As part of both the TUC and Cavendish Coalition it is working with organisations representing other professions and healthcare employers to ensure European physiotherapy professionals can continue to play a critical role in UK Healthcare.

January 2017: May's 12 Brexit objectives

Several of Theresa May's 12 goals reflect areas where the CSP has concerns for patients and members:

Resident rights
The prime minister aims to maintain the rights of EU nationals in the UK and British nationals in the EU, on a reciprocal basis. Guaranteeing these rights is important for EU physiotherapists and support workers across the UK and for British physiotherapists working in Europe. It is unclear, however, if this commitment includes continued access to health care on a reciprocal basis for all residents.

Rights at work
The government has committed to use UK regulations to ensure that workers’ rights are maintained. This is welcome, but we want to see the detailed proposals for regulations to ensure that they are indeed equivalent to EU protection.

A pledge to collaborate with Europe on major science, research and technology initiatives is welcome. It is less clear whether this will mean UK-based physiotherapy researchers will be able to access pan-European funding.

Common Travel Area
Teresa May also committed to maintaining unrestricted movement between the UK and Ireland. This is important for our members in Northern Ireland. Some work across the border and some patients from the Republic use services in Northern Ireland.

Whilst the focus on these areas is welcome, all are subject to negotiation with the EU and/or further UK legislation. It is therefore too early to say whether the outcomes will be what physiotherapists and their patients need.

CSP concerns

There were some clear gaps in the goals which are of concern:

  • NHS funding – a key campaign focus by the leave campaign was releasing funding for the NHS. There was no mention of funding for the NHS.
  • Students – it is unclear whether student mobility is on the government’s agenda. Those already studying abroad may be covered by the proposed reciprocal rights for residents,. However, uncertainty remains over the future of student exchanges and the ability of EU students to study physiotherapy in the UK.