Government failure to deliver on workforce commitments

The CSP has welcomed an opportunity to submit written evidence and participate in a roundtable discussion to the parliamentary health and social care select committee (HSCC) expert panel on workforce in England.

It is disappointing that none of the government commitments that the panel are evaluating have been met, for example, NHS Long Term Plan targets for first contact practitioners (FCP).

Evidence clearly shows that FCPs are safe and effective as the first point of contact for people contacting GP practices with musculoskeletal (MSK) issues. If government were to deliver on this commitment it would ease the pressure on GPs and contribute to reducing the backlog.  Implementation of FCP roles is hampered by inadequate numbers of physiotherapists in MSK services to move into these roles and provide backfill.

There are no other workforce targets set for physiotherapists but to achieve the NHS policy commitments workforce targets should be set for every policy commitment- including policies on urgent community response, discharge to assess and improving access to stroke, cardiac, pulmonary and pelvic health rehab. 

The combined lack of workforce targets in the community and lack of a pipeline of physiotherapists to take up FCP roles, places pressure on the community MSK and FCP workforce.

The CSP also raised key concerns about vital issues such as lack of career development opportunities in NHS for physiotherapists and support workers. The need for urgent investment in the workforce, on data funding for essential ICT equipment and staff training, staff burnout, flexible working, bullying and MSK impact on staff concerns that featured strongly in the 2021 NHS staff survey. We also called for a decent pay rise to avoid a workforce crises. 

CSP England policy lead Natasha Owusu said: ‘Our responses clearly shows that none of the government commitments have been met and this is really disappointing. 

‘The NHS Long Term Plan commitment to recruit 5,000 FCPs by 2030 if met would significantly help to tackle the backlog by relieving pressures on GPs as well as improving access for patients especially marginalised groups. This will also lead to a reduction in demands on secondary care and pressures on the workforce. 

‘To urgently deliver on all the government commitments the NHS need to take advantage of the healthy number of physiotherapy graduates by recruiting more - alongside this we also need expansion of the support workforce.’

Meanwhile, the CSP attended a HSCC expert panel workforce roundtable to talk about key government commitments. The discussions and CSP submission will inform the panel’s report. 

CSP recommendations

  • Deliver the Long Term Plan commitment to over 5,000 additional physiotherapists with advanced practice skills in first contact roles to ease pressure on GPs 
  • Provide workforce targets for implementation of all policies in the Long Term Plan and the Covid Recovery Plan including policies that require an expansion of the physiotherapy and AHP workforce in the community 
  • Set minimum AHP workforce targets for the next iteration of the People Plan, for both the registered and non-registered workforce
  •  Support current development of AHP workforce plans at trust and integrated care systems level and make this part of the annual cycle of workforce planning 
  • Provide sustainable long-term funding for continuous professional development of the AHP workforce

Read the CSP’s response

It closely follows the CSP’s response to the HSCC workforce inquiry in February

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