Millions of pounds of taxpayers money is being wasted as newly trained physiotherapists are forced to find work in shops or even the circus because they cannot find NHS jobs, it was claimed today.
The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP) said that six months after completing their degrees, 53 per cent of UK physiotherapy graduates were still seeking their first NHS junior job.
A survey of 1,523 graduates found that 805 have still not secured their first post in physiotherapy. In Birmingham and Coventry, 30 graduates are still looking for their elusive first job.
The CSP said this group's training cost the taxpayer more than #23 million - at about #28,580 per person. As they hunt for an elusive post, many have been forced to take work in supermarkets, shops and banks to make ends meet.
CSP chief executive Phil Gray said: "After months of competing with hundreds of others for just a handful of junior posts, many graduates have had to put their physiotherapy aspirations on the backburner.
"We know of first-class graduates who are working in Tesco and Topshop just to make ends meet.
"One's joined the circus, while others are working in factories to raise money for Christmas." Mr Gray said that the bleak situation was not a by-product of having trained too many physios.
He added: "The society first highlighted the plight of 2005 graduates this summer - when it became apparent that the agencies responsible for workforce planning hadn't made sufficient provision for the growing number of qualified physiotherapists.
"A planned expansion of the workforce was agreed by the Government to help meet increasing patient demand and achieve the 18-week target on waiting times, but too much emphasis on creating senior jobs has led to a huge shortage of junior posts being available." The CSP said that although there was a chronic shortage of junior physiotherapy posts, there are currently 1,500 vacant senior posts across the UK.
"It's shocking that a large pool of newly qualified physiotherapists are unable to get on the first rung of the career ladder, yet there are vacancies at senior level. They desperately want to work for the NHS and spent years training at huge cost to the taxpayer."
"Junior physiotherapists undertake a high volume of routine work and without their contribution, patient care will suffer and waiting lists will extend.
" With Christmas approaching and a new batch of students graduating in the New Year, we face the very real possibility of losing physiotherapy talent and over #23 million worth of public money to other industries.
"That would be an utter scandal," Mr Gray said.
In recent months there have also been claims that newly qualified doctors and nurses have been left unable to find jobs after qualifying.
Liberal Democrat health spokesman Steve Webb said once again the Government had failed to plan ahead.
"With taxpayers spending large sums on training, and physiotherapists committing years of their lives, the least we can expect is that they will have a decent chance of a job at the end of it all."
Health Minister Lord Warner said the government was already taking action. " We recognise some physiotherapists are having difficulty securing their first job. That is why we have developed an action plan with The Charted Society of Physiotherapy to help fill these vacancies and increase levels of junior physiotherapy.
"A clearing house for physiotherapy job vacancies will come on-line in early December."