Thousands of NHS physiotherapists go on strike time for first time

Thousands of NHS physiotherapists go on strike time for first time

Thousands of physiotherapists will go on strike on Thursday for the first time over pay amid worsening industrial disputes across the NHS.

More than 4,000 members of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP) in 30 trusts will walk out for 24 hours following industrial action by nurses and paramedics in recent weeks.

In London, physiotherapists will walk out in nine trusts, including Guys and St Thomas NHS Foundation Trust and Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust. Urgent care will still be provided.

Elaine Sparkes, Assistant Director of Employment Relations and Union Services at the CSP, told the Standard: “There are workload pressures and a lack of staff and resources within physiotherapy. This is the last resort for our members – something has to change.

“Many of our more experienced staff are leaving the profession, which is having a big impact on the services we can provide.”

Ms Sparkes noted that physiotherapists provide a wide range of important care across the NHS despite being known primarily for their work in injuries and musculoskeletal conditions.

Thursday’s action will be followed by a second strike in England on February 9. This comes just three days after nurses and ambulance workers walk out simultaneously in what is set to be the largest NHS strike in history.

Health and Social Care Secretary Steve Barclay said the strikes were “regrettable” and that he would continue to meet with unions to discuss what is “fair and affordable for the 2023/24 pay process”.

On Wednesday, Mr Barclay met with senior officials from the CSP to discuss issues within the profession but there were no negotiations over pay, the union said.

Ms Sparkes said that the union would consider extending strikes to 119 trusts if Mr Barclay does not commit to “serious” talks on pay.

“We have met with the Health Secretary and there’s been nothing concrete in those talks that is leading us to believe there will be meaningful discussions on pay. We are open to these conversations at any stage.

“We want a pay rise that would at least meet inflation. For our members the cost of living pressures are critical.”

A CSP spokesman said: “Strike action is a last resort and this is the first time in our history that we have taken action over pay.

“Physiotherapy staff are working under extraordinary pressure due to workforce shortages and huge waiting lists and a pay offer that is half the rate of inflation is nowhere near enough.

“Failing to pay staff fairly will increase these pressures if people leave, causing greater stress for those who remain and longer waits for patients.

“The Government must come back with a better deal to ensure we retain the staff we desperately need.”