Physios Without Jobs As Waiting Lists Hit 28,000

Physiotherapy graduates are being left without jobs even though official figures show more than 28,000 people are waiting for an appointment.Half of those who qualified from Scottish universities this summer have been unable to find permanent jobs in the field, according to a survey published today. Cash shortages at health boards are among the factors blamed for the lack of junior positions.

Staff are due to gather in uniform outside the Scottish Parliament this morning to demonstrate their frustration over scores of qualified physiotherapists remaining unemployed.

Professor Brian Durward, dean of health and social care at Glasgow Caledonian University, which runs one of Scotland’s three training programmes, said: “We have tremendous concerns about the situation. We know that the service need is out there and we know it is growing.”

The first ever official investigation into waiting times to see allied health professionals was conducted earlier this year. As The Herald revealed in July, it found patients could wait up to a year for their first treatment session with a physiotherapist and more than 28,000 people were awaiting their first appointment.

In the same month, 187 students graduated from physiotherapy courses in Scotland. The CSP polled them all and, of the 101 who responded, 80 said they were yet to secure a job in the profession and 10 said they had been hired on short-term contracts.

Professor Durward said the university had ensured it was producing enough graduates to meet the requirements of the NHS but, amid budget pressures, health boards were unable to employ them. “Obviously the NHS has a number of new financial commitments as a result of negotiating new staff contracts at consultants’ level and for general practitioners,” he said.

Kenryck Lloyd-Jones, Scotland policy officer for the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP), said: “After four years of hard work and study, the disappointment these junior physiotherapists face is enormous.

“More physiotherapists are already needed, and Scotland’s ageing population means an expansion of the profession will be essential.”

He added: “It is vital that these graduates find work in physiotherapy and maintain their skills. Statistics show that the vast majority of those that are not employed within one year of graduation will be lost to the profession permanently, because without practice they quickly lose their skills.”

A further 60 students are expected to complete their courses and join the job search during the next three months.

A new deal for other NHS staff, including physiotherapists and other allied health professionals, is also thought to be behind the jobs shortage. It is thought existing staff may have been reluctant to move until their employment terms were settled. The physiotherapy vacancies which are available are said to be largely for more senior staff.

Gavin Routledge, osteopath and director of the private Active X clinics in the east of Scotland, said private practices tended to want experienced practitioners.

Health Minister Andy Kerr has written to MSPs, telling them the Scottish Executive has funded a project officer to help broker employment opportunities for recently qualified physiotherapists.

An executive spokesman said: “Nationally, a number of recruitment and retention initiatives for physiotherapists are under way. However, it cannot be the responsibility of the executive, or NHS Scotland, to guarantee employment.

“Students are free to choose which subjects they wish to pursue. It is up to them to choose a course of study while mindful of employment prospects.”

The executive also indicated 94% of patients waiting to see a physiotherapist could be expected to be offered a date within 18 weeks.