Scotland Needs More Physios

There is a shortage of physiotherapists across Scotland, with vacancy rates at record levels. Find out how you can help address this by writing to your MSP

Scotland physiotherapist

Almost all physiotherapy managers have reported staff shortages in NHS Scotland. Staff shortages lead to reduced capacity, additional pressure on services, and longer patient waiting times.

We know that physiotherapy in Scotland is a profession waiting to grow. Physiotherapy has huge potential to meet the challenges facing health services, by reducing hospital admissions, speeding up discharge, reducing reliance on social care and supporting people to return to work and live independently. This potential cannot be realised without the workforce.

Scotland’s undergraduate physiotherapy programmes have seen virtually no increase in numbers in the last 15 years. In contrast, England has increased undergraduate physiotherapy training places by 96% in the last 10 years. Physiotherapy is an oversubscribed subject with 13 applications for every place.

What can you do?

Kenryck Lloyd-Jones, CSP's public affairs and policy manager for Scotland, talks about the impact of staff shortages

The CSP is calling for the Scottish Government to urgently expand the number of physiotherapy undergraduate places.

We need your help to do this.

We are urging you as a CSP member in Scotland to write a letter to your MSP, detailing the impact the lack of workforce is having on your service, your colleagues and your patients. You know this better than anyone else.

By writing to your MSP, you can make them realise that an understaffed physiotherapy workforce is a genuine problem that is having a real impact in their constituencies, and pressure the Scottish government to take action.

How to write to your MSP

Use the link below to find out who your MSPs are, and send them a letter. Your letter can also be copied to the MSPs representing your region.

Frequently asked questions 

What are you asking me to do?

The link above will take you to a website where you can enter the postcode of your service, it will tell you who the constituency and regional MSPs are.

Enter your letter into the form at the above web link. Remember to copy and paste your letter into the box -  you know your situation best, and it’s important you write about it here.

When writing your letter:

  • Do add in the experiences of staff and patients in your service generated by there not being enough physiotherapists in Scotland
  • Do use available data and anecdotes detailing the impact on patients.
  • Do try and keep your writing brief. CSP staff will follow up your letter with more detailed information.
  • Do remember your MSP may not have a healthcare background so try and avoid acronyms
  • Don't start letters with "Dear ...", sign them off or include the date - the website will add this in for you
  • Don't click 'send letter' without adding your letter into the available box

    Will this get me into trouble with my employer?

    The CSP know how hard all healthcare staff, including managers, are working under enormous pressure to deliver the best possible service for their patients. This is not a campaign criticising health boards or healthcare staff, or calling on them to change anything.

    We are calling on the Scottish Government to urgently increase undergraduate physiotherapy training places to reduce the vacancy rates and invest in the potential that physiotherapy has to address the health care needs of Scotland’s communities.

    Should I write as a CSP member?

    Yes. Members are encouraged to write, not as employees but as physiotherapists and members with an understanding of the challenges facing services. The CSP will defend the interests of the physiotherapy profession and its members.

    Everyone has a right to write to their MSP to highlight issues of concern and CSP members in Scotland can help to make our elected decision makers understand that staff shortages are not just statistics, but impact on staff, on services and on the health of the communities they represent.

    It is therefore entirely legitimate for CSP members to raise concerns about government policies and their local impact

    What can I include in my letter?

    Here is an example letter, not from a real health board, but based on the scenarios we repeatedly hear from members in Scotland. You could use the paragraph headings or example text to guide what topics you consider including in your letter.

    Example letter

    Example opening paragraph 

    As a chartered physiotherapist working for [NHS Health board] in your constituency I wish to raise my concerns regarding the shortage of physiotherapists in the NHS workforce. Scotland does not currently educate or train enough physiotherapists to supply the workforce needs, and this is placing enormous pressure on services. 

    Details of impact on recruitment and staffing levels

    At [name workplace] we have carried two band 5 vacancies for newly qualified physiotherapists for over a year without being able to recruit to these positions. We have also failed to recruit a senior band 7 musculoskeletal physiotherapist for over five months. Our service is also 2.5 whole time posts short of what current workforce planning tools calculate is needed for patients.

    Details of impact on staff morale and retention

    The shortage of physiotherapy staff impacts across our teams. Staff morale is suffering as we work with increasing levels of stress and work pressures, and we are preventing from delivering the care we would wish to provide. Increasing numbers are leaving, which only exacerbates our problems in an already hard to recruit rural area.

    Details of impact on patients

    Patients also suffer from the effects of short staffing, which inevitably extends waiting times and our routine waiting time is now up to ten months. Longer waiting times increase the prospect of conditions becoming chronic, requiring more treatment and more complex caseloads. We are also unable to plan or redesign services because any new posts are unlikely to be filled. Even the process of planning is hindered as all staff are needed to fulfil clinical caseloads.

    Example closing paragraphs

    The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy is campaigning that ‘Scotland needs more physios’ and that while undergraduate training places have doubled in England to meet demand, there has been no increase in Scotland in the last decade. This means that while Scottish course programmes are oversubscribed with applicants, not enough places are funded to meet the needs of Scotland’s NHS. The shortage of physiotherapists impacts on our local communities, their services and staff. Physiotherapy is essential to reduce hospital admissions, speed up discharge from hospital and reduce reliance on social care, which are all critical this winter.

    I am therefore asking you to urge the Scottish government to urgently address the physiotherapy workforce shortage in Scotland.

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