PATIENTS and their families have backed physiotherapists after they became the latest group to join the picket line over ongoing industrial action.

One physiotherapist said a group of around 30 strikers at the gates of Royal Berks Hospital in Reading were heartened by the support from passersby with one patient calling them the 'backbone of the NHS.'

The team at the Royal Berks Hospital, London Road, joined the 4,200 members of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapists across the country yesterday (26/1) for the 24-hour walkout.

Both physios and support workers were represented outside Royal Berkshire Hospital to try to get their voices heard.

Sydney Box, an ICU Physiotherapist and member of The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, said: “We had a good turnout of physios and physiotherapy assistants which was great because it meant we have representatives of both staff groups.

“A lot of the public don’t realise what we do in a hospital setting, other than treat sports injuries and outpatient procedures.

“So, being there in person meant we could educate the public on what we do and why we were striking.

“There were some patients and also family members who came up to us saying that we are ‘the backbone of the NHS’. It was lovely hearing about some of the experiences they had with physios and it was a big motivator.”

As well as outpatient care, physiotherapists are at the centre of critical and intensive care. Their main role is early mobilisation for patients on ventilators and tracheotomies.

This includes supporting patients with respiratory conditions such as pneumonia and stroke victims that require urgent care.

The strike action is centred around the pay disputes affecting all areas of the NHS. Although workers have been given an extra £1,400 extra this year in their NHS pay award, workers say that it is ‘not suitable with the way they work’.

With inflation rising, NHS workers are looking for an above-inflation pay rise arguing that without it, staffing shortages will only worsen.

Sydney said: “We are really struggling with staff recruitment in the first place and filling the vacancies that we’ve got. There’s no incentive to work for the NHS anymore.

“A lot of people are leaving university and going straight into private practice so we miss those groups that would have normally gone straight into the NHS. Now they are no longer considering it.

“Also, in terms of staff retention, we are really struggling to keep staff because they are extremely overworked and they feel as if they’re underpaid and overworked.

“I also think the government needs to appreciate us as a workforce group and have some recognition for what we do as a profession and what an integral part of the NHS we are.”