The provision of physiotherapy within the NHS is under threat on two fronts:
- Cuts to services
- Recruitment difficulties
A target for service cuts
As cash-strapped CCGs struggle to reduce their deficits, physiotherapy has become a target for cuts.
The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP) notes that cuts to physiotherapy services are not cost-effective and could result in:
- unnecessary pain, loss of mobility and independence and reduced quality of life;
- an increase in costs to the NHS;
- chronic health problems, disability and more time off work as conditions aren’t treated;
- physiotherapy becoming a privilege for only those who can afford to pay for private treatment.
The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy’s (CSP) chief executive Karen Middleton has warned that cuts to physiotherapy could end up driving up overall costs for the NHS, which may outweigh any savings made by reducing services.
“Simply cutting services such as physiotherapy will always prove to be a false economy if patients do not get the care they need. Conditions that could easily have been treated will worsen and require further support at a greater cost to the NHS.”
A shortage of physiotherapists
According to the CSP’s response to the Department of Health’s consultation on the funding of healthcare education:
“There is a serious shortage of physiotherapists in England, caused by insufficient numbers of physiotherapy student places at a time of growing demand. This is creating difficulties in recruiting physiotherapists……A minimum of 500 additional physiotherapists need to be trained each year until 2020 to meet the current shortfall.”
And the affect on patients is….
The charity Muscular Dystrophy UK reported in July 2016 that muscular dystrophy patients are missing out “on life-improving treatment, and even dying early, because of a lack of access to specialist physiotherapy” due to a shortage of physiotherapists and lack of funding for physiotherapy.
The charity’s report found that 60% of people with muscle-wasting conditions were unable to access appropriate physiotherapy; short-term provision of physiotherapy meant patients were receiving little or no benefit from it; 20% of patients were paying privately for their physiotherapy; and 40% of UK neuromuscular centres said they urgently needed increased physio capacity.
The report said there was a ‘serious shortage’ in physio access across much of the country and “inconsistencies in the funding and provision of vital aspects of respiratory physiotherapy and equipment….leading to avoidable admissions to hospital….in some tragic cases, this can even contribute to early loss of life.”