Thousands more physiotherapists needed in government's workforce plan

The UK government's eagerly awaited workforce plan for the NHS must include details on how to expand the physiotherapy workforce, says the CSP.


It comes as recent data from a review of the physio workforce shows the UK is lagging behind its international peers.

In the UK, there is currently one physiotherapist for every 1,136 people compared to Germany where there is one for every 430 people and Australia where there is one for every 742 people.

The CSP is calling on the government to grow registered physio numbers by at least seven per cent  per year. At this rate it would take five years to bring England closer in line with international comparisons with one physio for every 810 people.

The new analysis also shows the NHS needs 12,000 more physiotherapists to expand its ability to try and meet demand.

The government must address this shortfall in its long-awaited workforce strategy but the CSP is concerned that briefing on the plan has so far focused solely on doctors and nurses.

Without expanding the physiotherapy workforce, the CSP believes that the UK government will be unable to deliver on its NHS long term plan, Major Conditions Strategy and its Urgent Emergency Care strategy - to name just three key focus areas.

Ash James, CSP director of practice and development, said: ‘It is important that we have more doctors and nurses in the NHS but it is essential that they are joined by increased numbers of physiotherapy staff and other allied health professionals.

The services our members and their AHP colleagues deliver are absolutely critical to the ability of the NHS to address the current crisis and build a brighter future for patient care in this country.

"The workforce strategy must set out clearly how it will recruit and retain the big increase in numbers we need to match other countries and ensure patients get the quality of care they need to lead independent, active lives.

The CSP analysis warns that 15 per cent of physiotherapy staff are leaving the NHS each year and almost half of them are leaving within the first five years of qualifying.

Many are moving to the private sector but some newly qualified are seeking positions in low-skilled roles in the commercial sector citing less stress, flexible working hours and better pay, the CSP has learned.

There is also the worrying issue of support workers retiring. A 2019 CSP survey of support workers shows that approximately 24 per cent of the current physiotherapy support worker workforce are over 55 years of age.

NHS England has just published Community health services waiting lists that show in January a quarter of a million adults were on waiting lists for musculoskeletal services alone, with more than 35,000 patients waiting up to a year.

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