Progress for healthcare support workers in Scotland

We hope you read the inspirational career development stories of some of our Associate members in the May 2022 edition of Frontline.

You’ll see we highlighted the career journey of Chris Milligan who is now a registered physiotherapist. Chris’s story and his feedback on the challenges and barriers he faced told a sorry tale of the barriers to education and progression for our support workforce in Scotland.  

Last year we carried out some engagement work with support workers, Associate members and managers in Scotland. From this we were able to produce evidence of the systemic barriers to education and training for support workers in Scotland; develop a clear set of recommendations for change and a call to action to Scottish government and NHS Education for Scotland (NES). 

Progress is finally being made

Towards the end of last year Scottish government commissioned NES to develop a national career development framework for health care support workers and make further recommendations for reform of approaches to support worker training and education.

We are engaged in this work and are pushing our own recommendations which include:  

  • Career progression routes for physio support workers should be standardised with core capabilities at each level of practice consistently defined.   
  • The current suite of qualifications for HCSWs need reducing and should align with a standardised career progression pathway.  
  • Consideration should be given to a national procurement approach to education provision for physio support workers. Providers should be tasked with delivering blended solutions to formal qualifications that meet the needs of the physiotherapy profession and include work-based elements.     
  • A centralised approach to funding of standardised education should be implemented.  
  • Consideration should be given to developing ‘grow your own approaches’ through, for example,  apprenticeships to develop resilience in broader workforce supply.  
  • NES should pursue work with universities to develop routes into pre-registration training for physiotherapy support workers. We see this is a key lever in widening participation to AHP careers, and in addressing significant recruitment and retention challenges in remote locations.  


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