Physiotherapists strike for first time EVER as up to 4,000 medics walk-out in dispute over pay
- Physios on the picket line said some junior staff were having to use food banks
- More strike pain is inbound with a host of action planned for the next few weeks
Thousands of NHS physiotherapists took to picket lines today in their first ever walk-out over pay.
They are the latest NHS staff group to strike this winter, joining frustrated nurses and ambulance staff.
Today’s industrial action — organised by the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy — involved up to 4,200 medics at 30 trusts in England.
Union bosses said the action is a ‘last resort’ and patients should expect a ‘Christmas Day’ level of physio services until tomorrow, with some appointments expected to be cancelled.
Physios say “No”. Thousands of NHS physiotherapy staff walked off the job today in an ongoing dispute over pay with Government. Pictured here are staff from St Thomas’ Hospital in London
The calendar shows planned strike dates among NHS staff in the coming months
They have also threatened to hold another strike on February 9 if No10 does not bow to their demands.
Physiotherapists on the picket lines today said the Government had left them no choice but to take action.
Hayley Kidger, a 36-year-old senior oncology physio at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, claimed her junior colleagues were resorting to using internal food banks set up by the NHS to survive.
‘NHS trusts should not have to have foodbanks, it’s ridiculous, they shouldn’t have to support their staff that way,’ she said.
‘Why would you come here, and put your heart and soul on the line to save someone’s life and hold their hand when they’re dying, when you can get paid more to run a Tesco?’
Greg Stretton, a 41-year-old team leader for the respiratory medicine physiotherapist service at the Nottingham, said the inability to recruit staff due to low wages was a key reason behind the industrial action.
He said his team should have 18 staff but usually has around 14, and it has at times dropped to as low as six despite workloads remaining high as physiotherapy services deal with the aftermath of Covid and a backlog of cancer patients.
‘People are just genuinely burnt out, and my team has noticed the impact of that,’ he said.
‘We were having people in our office cry on a daily basis, just from being at work and the stresses of being work amid untenable pressures, patient demands and service demands.
‘It was a choice of “So you let down the patients by saying we need to focus on ourselves, or do we let down staff by saying our patients need us?” We just don’t have the capacity to do everything.’
Staff on the picket lines said some colleagues were using food banks and that teams were struggling to recruit needed team members due to low wages
The CSP said it has been calling for meaningful discussions over an improved deal since the summer, saying the 4 per cent offered by Government wasn’t enough to keep pace with inflation.
Claire Sullivan, director of employment relations at the CSP, also slammed ministers for having only met with the union once to discuss pay since the summer, in a meeting that only lasted an hour.
‘The Government’s strategy during this dispute has been simply inexplicable and is entirely to blame for these strikes,’ she said.
‘The Government must come to the table with something tangible that we can put to our members to prevent more strikes following if there is no progress.
‘We have never dealt with this level of lack of engagement. It is extremely frustrating.’
Similar to other unions orchestrating strikes within the NHS, the CPS wants an above-inflation pay rise for physios.
Health and Social Care Secretary Steve Barclay said: ‘It is regrettable some union members are taking industrial action.
‘I will continue meeting with unions, including the Chartered Society of Physiotherapists, to discuss what is fair and affordable for the 2023/24 pay process.’
NHS trusts have told patients to still attend any planned appointments unless they have been informed it has cancelled.
Another CSP strike, this time for Wales, is scheduled for February 7.
The next day of NHS strikes in England is scheduled for February 6 when the Royal College of Nurses and ambulance staff from the Unite union hold a coordinated day of industrial action.
This will be the first time two NHS unions have decided to strike on the same day in the current dispute.
NHS leaders have said it could be the biggest single day of strikes in the health service’s history.
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