Boost physio numbers to tackle public dissatisfaction with the NHS, says CSP

CSP is calling on the government to increase physio staffing numbers and deliver on its workforce commitments, as a new survey shows that public dissatisfaction with the NHS has reached an all-time high. 

Illustration showing staff coping with vacancies
Staff shortages are one of the reasons public satisfaction with the NHS is now at its lowest ever recorded level.

Findings from the British Social Attitudes Survey (BSA) reveal that public satisfaction with the NHS has sunk to its lowest ever recorded level. 

The BSA survey, which is run by the National Centre for Social Research, provides an accurate benchmark of public attitudes and has been conducted annually for the last 40 years. 

Published this week, the results for the 2022 survey show that levels of satisfaction with the NHS are now at their lowest ever level since the survey began in 1983 - with only 29 per cent of people now expressing overall satisfaction with the service (down from 70 per cent in 2010), in comparison to 51 per cent who stated they were dissatisfied with the service.  

The survey highlights the main reasons that survey respondents gave for their dissatisfaction as being: 

  • Waiting times for hospital and GP appointments (69 per cent) 
  • Staff shortages (55 per cent)  
  • And a lack of government spending on the NHS (50 per cent). 

Physiotherapy staff offer a solution 


The outcomes of the latest BSA survey tally closely with the findings of a recent CSP staffing survey, which showed that 93 per cent of physio managers reported that there were insufficient staffing numbers to meet patient needs and 39 per cent of physiotherapy staff reported that this was something they were very concerned about .  

Our members also reported having less time to spend with patients, longer waiting times and a lack of available time to improve services. 

Issues around staff retention and an inability to fill vacant posts were also highlighted by members as contributing factors to insufficient staffing levels. 

As a result, the CSP is calling for the government to deliver on its current commitments, including the delivery the UEC Recovery plan, the NHS Long term plan, its Major Conditions strategy and the recent budget announcement to help keep people with MSK conditions in work.

However, in order for these plans to succeed, the government needs to ensure the NHS is sufficiently staffed with physiotherapists and support workers. 

The UK is currently lagging behind international physio workforce figures in comparison to many other countries, and by increasing our staffing numbers the government could help tackle waiting times for both NHS hospitals and GP appointments – and thereby raise overall satisfaction rates. 

Commenting on the urgent need for an expansion of the physio workforce Rachel Newton, CSP head of policy, said: ‘Over the next five years we can expect a seven per cent increase every year in registered physios, growth that is desperately needed in all sectors.

60 per cent of the physio workforce is in the NHS. If this proportion of growth were invited into the NHS it would mean 12,000 additional physios.

At the same time, we need to be increasing support worker posts, with 6500 over the next five years.

‘The priority for an expansion in NHS posts should be in primary care, rehabilitation for people after discharge and to improve management of long-term conditions and frailty in the community to meet current policy objectives.’ 

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