Increase physio workforce and include rehab pathways in future crisis plans, CSP tells independent Covid inquiry

The CSP has submitted evidence to the independent public inquiry to examine the UK's response to the Covid-19 pandemic, the impact of the pandemic and learning lessons for the future. 


Crisis planning for any future pandemics, or other events that might impact on national health, must include adequate pathways to rehabilitation and a commitment to increase the physiotherapy workforce.  

These are just two of the suggestions included in CSP’s formal submission to the UK Covid-19 inquiry  

The Society's submission points out that:

Most Covid patients discharged from ICU did not receive the rehabilitation they needed. This was due to a lack of an agreed rehabilitation pathway, lack of clarity on what counts as essential rehabilitation and a lack of local or national planning in relation to rehabilitation

‘At the start of the pandemic there was large-scale redeployment of physiotherapy staff from community services into acute hospitals and Intensive Care Units. There was insufficient planning to mitigate the impact on services they were redeployed from, with many services ceasing to function.    

‘This slowed discharge; meant that patients (Covid and non-Covid) being discharged from hospital and those managing long term conditions in the community, have not been able to access the rehab that they need – for example recovering from stroke, heart attacks as well as managing cardiovascular disease, frailty, chronic respiratory and neurological conditions.’   

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Commenting on the CSP’s evidence Karen Middleton, CSP chief executive, emphasised the need for more physiotherapy staff in the NHS:

 ‘The physiotherapy workforce played an essential role throughout the Covid-19 pandemic across the NHS and social care, as well as the independent sector.  

Physiotherapists were critical to providing care in intensive care and in enabling patients’ rehabilitation and discharge from hospital

‘Chronic under-staffing in physiotherapy and rehab teams reduced the resilience of services to cope in the face of the pandemic.

‘Not only must the contribution of the physiotherapy workforce in the pandemic be recognised but lessons must be learnt and this must include addressing the NHS staffing crisis’

Availability of PPE and regular testing   


CSP’s submitted evidence to the inquiry also highlights that sourcing PPE was challenging for physiotherapy staff start at the start of the pandemic, particularly before the profession was considered a priority staff group across both NHS and non-NHS settings.

This created significant anxiety and mental stress for CSP members.     

‘Physiotherapy staff were further exposed by a lack of testing for most asymptomatic staff,’ the submission states.   

Around one in five physiotherapy staff were believed to be in a high-risk category and the lack of any access to regular testing caused significant anxiety and fears of passing on the virus to patients, colleagues, or family

Since the pandemic, a significant number of CSP members have developed Long Covid and the CSP has joined with the TUC in calling for Covid and Long Covid to be recognised as industrial diseases so that people can receive compensation.   

The CSP will also be contributing to joint evidence with TUC partners.  

CSP members can also directly submit their experiences to the inquiry: Share your experiences 

For more information about the inquiry visit UK Covid-19 Inquiry

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