'Dismal, disappointing and totally inadequate' - more third level places needed for physiotherapy students

  • Ministers for Higher Education and Health announce 26 new third-level places for physiotherapists,  just 6 are in Republic of Ireland  
  • Over 17,000 children waiting for a physiotherapy assessment, almost 60 ,000 adults waiting for an appointment, amid recruitment and retention crisis
  • Trainee physios must complete 1,000 hours of supervised clinical training before graduation – but hundreds of vacant posts is resulting in a lack of supervision, exacerbating the issue


The Irish Society of Chartered Physiotherapists (ISCP) has branded a joint announcement from Ministers Harris and Donnelly on third level expansion for healthcare and therapy areas as “dismal, disappointing and totally inadequate.”

The ISCP represents over 3,000 Chartered Physiotherapists in Ireland and its CEO, Dr. Marie Ó Mír, has said that while the society welcomes news of additional third level places available in healthcare, https://www.gov.ie/en/press-release/714b7-ministers-harris-and-donnelly-announce-significant-third-level-expansion-for-key-healthcare-and-therapy-areas/">as announced by the Department of Further and Higher Education , Research, Innovation and Science this week, the reality  “rings hollow for the physiotherapy profession.”


Dr Ó Mír said: “An increase in third-level places has been long-anticipated, but the announcement this week is for just  26 extra places for physiotherapy students in the coming year -  and twenty  of these will be in the  in University of Ulster.  The news this week is dismal, disappointing and totally inadequate.”


Physiotherapy boasts the largest workforce among the various therapies in the HSE. Unfortunately at the minute, numerous positions remain unfilled across both public and private hospitals, as well as in private practices. We are unable to accurately quantify the exact number of vacancies that are unfilled, as to date, the  HSE has declined to disclose this information to the ISCP. This workforce shortage is compounded by the fact that the ESRI has forecast  a  32% surge in the demand for healthcare professionals across the board.”


Dr Ó Mír continued ”Recruitment and retention of physiotherapists is at crisis levels nationally, resulting in exponentially growing waiting lists for patients, particularly for children’s disabilities where wait times are now in years rather than weeks. In June 2022 there were 59,366 people waiting for a physiotherapy appointment . In June of this year we had , 17,157 children waiting for an assessment of need, of which physiotherapy is a crucial component. This is all occurring against a background where the quality of Irish graduates is highly recognised internationally, and they are being offered generous monetary incentives to move and work abroad.”


The new CEO of the ISCP continued: “ The introduction of new student places in and of itself places the current health system under pressure. Trainee physiotherapists must complete 1,000 hours of supervised clinical placement before they can graduate. Since the pandemic, there has been a serious issue in finding enough placements for current students as there are not sufficient staffing numbers to supervise students. If the government is serious about making real impactful change  to workforce planning to increase our student numbers there are several steps that must be taken namely:


  1. Undertake workforce planning as to how many physiotherapists are needed to meet Sláintecare and private health systems needs,  and plan student numbers appropriately.
  2. Engage with the ISCP and universities around facilitating increased numbers of students by recruiting additional clinical tutors to supervise students and
  3. Support students in their college years in terms of accommodation provision and rent supplements. The ISCP has received reports of students deferring places in physiotherapy programmes due to being unable to find rental accommodation

The government as whole must also make meaningful commitment to addressing the cost of living crisis which is driving our young and highly trained public sector workforce out of the country.”