How do I become a physiotherapist in the UK?
By Gemma Raw
There’s just under 45,000 physiotherapists in England and Wales, yet the National Health Service (NHS) vacancy rate is anywhere between 6-20%. As an international physiotherapist, you’ll never be short of opportunities.
Why become a physiotherapist in the UK?
If you would like to work for an employer that sees physiotherapy as a crucial aspect of patient recovery, the UK is a great place to be. Physiotherapists work in a wide range of healthcare settings, including hospitals, clinics, health centres and GP surgeries. They are an integral part of the NHS’s multidisciplinary approach. Most importantly, the job prospects are great for physiotherapists, and the entry level pay (Band 5) in the NHS starts at £24,907 per year. With specialist training and more responsibility though, you can earn considerably more. Principal physiotherapists (consultants), for example, earn very well.
Furthermore, there are extra allowances in certain inner city areas, including many London boroughs. As an incentive, you may even be offered assistance towards your accommodation costs. Plus, you’ll benefit from a generous annual leave (holiday) entitlement, which increases with length of service.
How do you become a physiotherapist?
You will need to study to qualify as a physiotherapist in the UK, and you can do this in several ways. Most people opt for a full-time physiotherapy course that takes 3 years and involves both academic study and clinical placement. Of course, there are options for you to study part-time. However, most of these courses tend to be for those looking to work as physiotherapy support workers rather than physiotherapists. Alternatively, if you have a degree in a related subject (e.g. biological science) you may join an Accelerated Programme and qualify within two years. Similarly, there are work-based programmes. Often referred to as a degree apprenticeship, students spend most of their time learning on placement and visit the university two days a week.
Once you have completed your training to become a physiotherapist in England and Wales, you must register with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) before you can legally practice. You will also need to maintain your registration. To do this, you must participate in a process called revalidation, where you evidence continuing professional development (CPD).
Start working in the UK as a physiotherapist
Physiotherapists are highly encouraged to come to the UK to work and live and are welcomed by NHS and private healthcare employers alike. However, there are a few things you must do first. If you’re a non-EU international physiotherapist, you must apply to the HCPC. As a regulatory body, they will check your qualifications and any post-graduate education you’ve undertaken. The HCPC will also want to know where you have worked as an international physiotherapist to gain a strong understanding of your experience level.
In doing this, they are looking to see whether the training and experience you have matches their ‘Standards of Proficiency’ threshold. After all, it’s important that you are safe to practice, understand the expected legal and ethical boundaries and have the correct medical knowledge (there’s a list of 15 expectations). We know it may feel a little overwhelming, but it’s more than likely that you will already be working to most of these.
What certificates will you need?
If you qualified abroad, you’ll need to show a:
Certified copy of your qualification certificate
Translation of the certificate (if required)
Certificate of your professional status (from the regulator in the country you last worked)
Photocopy of a relevant English Language test certificate (see below)
You’ll need to evidence that you have a good grasp of the English language to be able to communicate with colleagues and patients. Therefore, you must pass the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) exam with a score of 7.0 (with no element below 6.5). Alternatively, you may choose to take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) Internet Based Test (IBT), with a score of 100. However, this cannot be taken once you’ve arrived in the UK.
Additionally, you’ll also need to arrange a UK Visa, and various other documentation, which Sanctuary International will help you with.
For more information on NHS careers, read our collection of blogs.