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Career developmentJan 25, 2023

HCPC analysis of retention rates among recent physio graduates reveals wide disparities across UK

More physiotherapists who graduated from Scottish universities have been leaving the profession at a relatively early stage in their careers when compared to their counterparts who studied in parts of England.

That is one of the findings in a report published on 20 January by the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC), which commissioned a study of retention rates for the groups it regulates from 2013-2018 as part of an ongoing ‘programme of work’ on improving preceptorship.

Andrew Smith, the HCPC’s interim deputy chief executive, said the overall findings had important implications for issues that are currently never far from the headlines, such as workforce planning in the NHS and elsewhere.

‘Workforce planning is crucial for the health and care sector,’ Mr Smith stated in a foreword to the report. ‘Workforce pressures can exacerbate waiting times, create backlogs and can compromise patient safety. Recruitment is part of the answer, but retaining good staff is vital too, and has perhaps never been more important.’

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About one physio graduate in 15 leaves the profession within four years, the HCPC found


Paramedics have the best rates

Deregistration rates varied widely among the 15 professions that the HCPC is responsible for – with one prosthetist/orthodontist in eight de-registering within four years (12.8 per cent), compared to one paramedic in 56 (1.8 per cent).

Physiotherapists’ overall rates are fairly average, with 6.7 per cent of them leaving with four years of initial registration (93.3 per cent remained registered). They are placed in the middle of three bandings set out in the report, which is headed ‘Retention rates of fist time HCPC registrants, 2013 to 2018’.

Other groups in the middle banding, which have retention rates of 92.5-95.3 per cent, include occupational therapists, biomedical scientists and speech and language therapists.

Those placed in the higher category (>97%) are paramedics, practitioner psychologists and operating department practitioners. Those in the lower banding (>91 per cent) include chiropodists/podiatrists, hearing aid dispensers, orthoptists, arts therapists and prosthetists/orthotists.

We hope this report provides useful information for employers, professional bodies, education institutions and others, to support their workforce planning programmes [Andrew Smith, HCPC]

Statistical analysis

The HCPC used statistical methods to assess all first-time UK application route registrants in the years 2013-2018, following all of them up for four years. The registrants’ time spent on the register was analysed separately by

  • age at first registration
  • gender / sex
  • profession
  • nationality
  • place of training

Location of course provider

Retention rates varied between training course providers in terms of their location. There was a 12.6 per cent gap between the location with the highest rate (South West, 97.2 per cent) and the one with lowest rate (Scotland, 84.6 per cent).


The vast majority of new UK route physiotherapists remained on the HCPC register four years after their first registration, with about one in 15 having left by then. The greatest variation was observed in nationality – with those having a UK nationality exhibiting higher retention rates – and in gender/sex, with women having higher rates. The ‘nationality effect’ appeared to be the main driver behind the variation in retention rates between locations of training course providers, according to the report.

Andrew Smith, the HCPC’s interim deputy chief executive, added: ‘This report is an important step in the HCPC’s programme of work to understand how preceptorship can best be designed to support the professions we regulate.

‘Promoting high quality professional practice as a compassionate regulator is a core part of our corporate strategy.’

‘We hope this report provides useful information for employers, professional bodies, education institutions and others, to support their workforce planning programmes.’

Further work

The HCPC said research shows that good quality preceptorship support improves retention levels. High quality programmes help healthcare professionals to ‘develop and maintain confident, safe and effective practice throughout their careers’, it noted. 

The findings will bolster work on how preceptorship can best support the 15 professions the HCPC regulates. It is collaborating with Health Education England and the various professional bodies to build on examples of good practice. A final set of preceptorship principles will be published in the next few months, the HCPC added.

To see the HCPC report in full, visit: https://www.hcpc-uk.org/news-and-events/news/2023/the-hcpc-publishes-analysis-of-retention-rates-among-its-health-and-care-professionals/

To see an earlier PhysioUpdate article on this topic, visit: https://www.physioupdate.co.uk/news/hcpc-consults-over-preceptorship-proposals-as-some-professions-lose-new-recruits-at-alarming-rate/

Author: Ian A McMillan
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