Model answers: workforce data model Q&A

The workforce data model offers a new approach to deciding how many physios the UK will need. Project leader Andy Lord explains how it works.


Andy Lord introduces the workforce data model, along with some of the issues facing physiotherapy services in the UK.

The WDM is currently offline as it is in the process of being updated.

The workforce data model is the CSP’s newest online tool for you, the CSP member. It’s an electronic tool that enables you to see the availability of physiotherapists in each UK country and in a range of localities. It is across all sectors, settings and roles, not just the NHS.

You can compare these data to those about predicted demand for services as far into the future as 2030. The tool offers a range of scenarios – the effects of physios delivering more services in primary care, for instance – and presents projections of the impact.

Why has the CSP decided to invest in the workforce data model now?

Well, it’s part of CSP’s Physiotherapy Works programme – which has the ultimate goal of improving access to quality physiotherapy. We want the WDM to improve how workforce planning happens.

Rather than a short-term approach, this is based on patient demand and the likely future demand of the population.

Who is the tool designed for?

Anyone interested in the future of the physiotherapy workforce will find this a useful device. It will be especially helpful for service managers, workforce planners or commissioners.

But it’s also designed for national organisations to help them make decisions, such as planning physiotherapy education.

Workforce planning is something physiotherapy staff need to be more engaged with – regardless of whether or not they are managers.

There’s a real shortage of physios in some areas of the UK. Can this tool help?

Increasing the number of physiotherapists in training is one way to meet increasing demand in the medium to long term.

In the short term there could be other solutions, such as broadening the skill mix of a particular service and improving its efficiency.

The WDM provides evidence that demand is not keeping pace with supply. This can be used to make the case for more workforce supply to meet changing services and meet patient need.

The tool includes scenarios on the effects of changes in services. What are these and how can they help?

We know there will be a number of changes, from physio staff retiring at a later age through to the expansion of new service models.

These have a huge impact on a workforce. The WDM can show you the impact on the workforce might be.

By using the predictions the tool can make about a local context, you can start to plan to ensure the future success of your physiotherapy service.

What data does it use and how do I know it’s accurate?

It combines data from the CSP, the Health and Care Professions Council and NHS electronic staff records.

Additionally, it draws on data that projects future population trends and patient need. The CSP will be reviewing the data annually to ensure they stay up to date.

The society also has excellent data about where physiotherapy graduates get their first job. These have been incorporated into the model to give you an accurate picture of which regions are likely to have more or fewer physiotherapists in the future.

You can find more detail about these data and the methodology used to create the tool under its ‘underlying data’ section.

Can I rely on what the WDM tells me, or is it crystal ball gazing?

As with any type of modelling, it’s important to consider the information produced within the context of the assumptions made. It’s all about critical thinking and using the best available evidence to enable planning.

This tool is unique, however, and its combination of multiple datasets has enabled the CSP to triangulate the results and be confident about the predictions it makes.

How does this fit in with the parallel CSP project on safe and effective staffing?

That project was recently reviewed to take account of various external changes, including the decision to suspend NICE’s work on this issue.

But we are continuing to build a new framework for the tool we’re developing on this topic. This will be will be separate from the WDM one, but similar in its approach.

How long did it take to develop the workforce data model?

A year. There were a number of steps in the development of the model – data gathering, member engagement, technical development and piloting included. All these take time. This work will continue to develop.

But getting the tool out there for you to use is a big step in progressing the CSP’s drive for better physiotherapy workforce planning.

Is it easy for non-techies to use?

The tool has been designed to be user-friendly, doesn’t require training and you can start accessing data very quickly.

You can change your requirements using a navigation panel and see the results in the ‘visualisation’ panel next to it.

But to get the most out of the workforce data model you should take some time explore it fully.

The CSP will be offering webinars for members who want a deeper understanding of how to use the tool.


Andy Lord

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