First ever physiotherapy strike over pay takes place in England

NHS physiotherapy staff in England are today taking part in their first ever strike over pay - with polling on the eve of action showing strong public support.

CEO Karen Middleton with striking physio staff at UCLH
CSP chief exec Karen Middleton with physiotherapy staff at University College London Hospital. Photograph: David Harrison

Up to 4,200 CSP members from 30 trusts went on strike today, as part of the ongoing dispute over the pay award given to NHS staff on the Agenda for Change pay scale. 

The CSP has been calling for meaningful discussions over an improved deal since last summer, with the pay award given by the government being less than half the rate of inflation and the NHS experiencing a disastrous workforce crisis that is badly damaging members’ ability to deliver high quality care. 

But despite government claims to be open to dialogue, no new offer has been tabled and physiotherapy staff have now reluctantly taken action. 

Mass participation by physiotherapy staff

A crowd of CSP members with a variety of home-made banners
CSP members on strike in Birmingham

Commenting on the large numbers of physiotherapy staff who took part in the strike, Jim Fahie, assistant director of employment relations at the CSP, said: ‘There has been an amazing turnout of support today.

'Physiotherapy staff have taken action at 40 picket lines across the country, and the call to strike has been well observed at all 30 employers affected by the CSP's collective action.

'CSP staff and officials have also been out in force, supporting our members throughout the day, and officials and reps from across the trade union movement have made solidarity visits and attended the picket lines. Members have also continued to support patients "under life and limb cover".

'It’s been an incredible and historic day. The strike has received a huge amount of media coverage, strong support from the general public and encouraging messages of solidarity from other healthcare staff and professional organisations.

'Our members didn’t want to have to strike today, but they simply can’t afford to accept the current pay offer as it stands

'Right now, physiotherapy staff in the NHS are overstretched, underpaid and unable to provide the full level of care that patients urgently need.

'If the government doesn't come back with a fair pay offer, then the NHS risks losing more and more valuable members of staff – and that will only make the current crisis in the NHS worse!’

Physiotherapy staff speak out

Today's historic strike started in the early hours, as CSP members met at picket lines across England to make a stand and call for fair NHS pay.

Among those attending was CSP steward Trupti Bhandari, who was part of the strike action taking place at Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Trust in London.

She said:

NHS staff are the backbone of this country…we work tirelessly to make sure we look after the country’s health – and we can only do that if we are paid properly, so that we can attract the staff that are required.

Strong public support for strike action

The unprecedented strike in England comes as new polling, conducted by Opinium, shows that 56 per cent of the public backs strike action by physiotherapy staff against just 25 per cent who oppose it. 

The Opinium poll was carried out between 20-24 January and the sample was 2,000 UK adults. 

Physio staff strike over pay at University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
Physio staff at University College London Hospital. Photograph: David Harrison

Crucially, 71 per cent of those who took part in the poll also said the government must come up with a better deal for physiotherapy staff and other NHSE workers to end the dispute. 

Claire Sullivan, CSP director of employment relations, said: ‘The government’s strategy during this dispute has been simply inexplicable and is entirely to blame for these strikes. 

‘It is gratifying that the public recognises where the fault lies and strongly supports the actions our members are taking, but it is galling that they have been forced to do something none of them would ever want to do. 

The government must come to the table with something tangible that we can put to our members to prevent more strikes following if there is no progress.

We are determined to secure a pay deal that helps our members cope with the cost of living crisis and helps the NHS recruit and retain staff to deliver the services that patients desperately need

Physiotherapists continued to provide emergency lifesaving care, including covering intensive care and respiratory on-call services, throughout today's industrial action.

Karen Middleton speaks from the picket lines

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