Northern Ireland health system facing physiotherapy recruitment crisis

A record shortage of physiotherapists in Northern Ireland is threatening patient care according to shocking new figures from the Department of Health. 

The latest official figures from the Department of Health show that there are currently 196 physiotherapy vacancies across all physiotherapy grades. That represents in excess of 15 per cent of the entire physiotherapy workforce in Northern Ireland. This is the highest number of physiotherapy vacancies ever recorded by the Department of Health.

With more than one in seven physiotherapy posts vacant, patients with Long Covid, or other conditions that require rehabilitation are missing out on vital treatments. Without rehab from physiotherapists to support a full recovery, patients can become trapped in a cycle of failing health, being discharged from hospital only to become ill again, sometimes leading to a life-limiting decline.  

The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy is calling on the Department of Health to increase student physiotherapy numbers and invest in physiotherapy careers as a matter of urgency in order to help reverse the rising gap in workforce supply.

Claire Ronald, CSP senior negotiating officer said:  'It is disappointing that the Department of Health has decided not to increase the number of undergraduate training places for NI this year. We currently produce approximately 60 physiotherapy graduates each year. That is nowhere near enough the number required to fill the vacancies here.

'In addition to increasing the number of undergraduate places for physiotherapy the health system also desperately needs to see additional recurrent funding for staff recruitment across all physiotherapy grades.

'All of the service commitments the Department of Health made in 2020/21 are still being funded non-recurrently and this continues to have a detrimental impact on the ability of trusts to recruit and retain the physiotherapy staff needed to deliver the services required.

'Should urgent action not be taken, we are extremely concerned that the current workforce situation will have a huge impact on current Department of Health initiatives to rebuild services, tackle waiting lists and further develop multidisciplinary teams in primary care. For example, the physiotherapy workforce is key to reforming orthopaedic pathways, identified as a priority in the recently published Elective Care Framework for tackling waiting times in NI, which are the longest in the UK.'



For further information contact:-

Tom Sullivan, Public Affairs & Policy Manager, Chartered Society of Physiotherapy NI, Scottish Provident Building, Donegall Square West, Belfast, BT1 6JH

Mob: 07779651939



Notes to Editors

Northern Ireland health and social care (HSC) workforce vacancies March 2021 Date published: 26 May 2021 


Number of subscribers: 1

Log in to comment and read comments that have been added