Irish Journal of Medical Science (1971 -)

, Volume 188, Issue 1, pp 19–27 | Cite as

A profile of physiotherapy supply in Ireland

  • James EighanEmail author
  • Brendan Walsh
  • Samantha Smith
  • Maev-Ann Wren
  • Steve Barron
  • Edgar Morgenroth
Original Article



The lack of information on public and private physiotherapy supply in Ireland makes current and future resource allocation decisions difficult.


This paper estimates the supply of physiotherapists in Ireland and profiles physiotherapists across acute and non-acute sectors, and across public and private practice. It examines geographic variation in physiotherapist supply, examining the implications of controlling for healthcare need.


Physiotherapist headcounts are estimated using Health Service Personnel Census (HSPC) and Irish Society of Chartered Physiotherapists (ISCP) Register data. Headcounts are converted to whole-time equivalents (WTEs) using the HSPC and a survey of ISCP members to account for full- and part-time working practices. Non-acute supply per 10,000 population in each county is estimated to examine geographic inequalities and the raw population is adjusted in turn for a range of need indicators.


An estimated 3172 physiotherapists were practising in Ireland in 2015; 6.8 physiotherapists per 10,000, providing an estimated 2620 WTEs. Females accounted for 74% of supply. Supply was greater in the non-acute sector; 1774 WTEs versus 846 WTEs in the acute sector. Physiotherapists in the acute sector were located mainly in publicly financed institutions (89%) with an even public/private split observed in the non-acute sector. Non-acute physiotherapist supply is unequally distributed across Ireland (Gini coefficient = 0.12; 95% CI 0.08–0.15), and inequalities remain after controlling for variations in healthcare needs across counties.


The supply of physiotherapists in Ireland is 30% lower than the EU-28 average. Substantial inequality in the distribution of physiotherapists across counties is observed.


Geographic distribution Non-acute supply Physiotherapy supply 



The authors thank Des Williams (Health Service Executive), and the Irish Society of Chartered Physiotherapists for provision, support, and advice in using the data. The views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily of the Health Research Board.


The work was supported by the Health Research Board grant (Grant No. 4644727) for project number HRA-2014-HSR-659.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

This article does not contain any studies with human participants.

Supplementary material

11845_2018_1806_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (384 kb)
ESM 1 Fig. 5 Distribution of hours worked by private only physiotherapists, ESRI/ISCP Physiotherapy Survey (2015) (PDF 384 kb)
11845_2018_1806_MOESM2_ESM.pdf (331 kb)
ESM 2 Fig. 6 Sensitivity scenario WTE numbers of acute and non-acute physiotherapists in Ireland by sector (2014-2015) (PDF 331 kb)
11845_2018_1806_MOESM3_ESM.docx (31 kb)
ESM 3 Table 2 Headcount of acute and non-acute physiotherapists in Ireland by sector and gender (2014/2015) (DOCX 31 kb)
11845_2018_1806_MOESM4_ESM.docx (31 kb)
ESM 4 Table 3 Acute and non-acute sensitivity scenario WTE physiotherapists in Ireland by sector and gender (2014/2015) (DOCX 31.3 kb)


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Copyright information

© Royal Academy of Medicine in Ireland 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Economic and Social Research InstituteDublinIreland
  2. 2.University College, formerly ESRI (until December 2015)DublinIreland
  3. 3.Dublin City University Business SchoolDublinIreland

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