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Prosthetist-orthotist

  • Hours

    37-40 per week

  • Starting salary

    £21,388 + per year

Prosthetists and orthotists provide care for people who need an artificial limb (prosthesis) or a device to support or control part of the body (orthosis). Their work plays an important part in the recovery of patients who might otherwise struggle with physical movement.

If you have strong abilities in science, and want to use your practical nature and problem solving skills to help people, then this could be the career for you.

To become a prosthetist or orthostist, you will need to do a three or four-year degree course approved by the British Association of Prosthetists and Orthotists (BAPO), and the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC).



 

The work

A prosthesis is a device that replaces a missing body part. Prosthetists design and fit artificial limbs (prostheses) to replace those lost through amputation or limbs missing at birth.

An orthosis is fitted to an existing body part. Orthotists design and fit surgical appliances (orthoses) such as braces, callipers, neck collars and splints. These can be used to support limbs or the spine to relieve pain, aid movement or prevent physical conditions getting worse. Orthoses may be worn permanently by the patient or used temporarily.

As a prosthetist or orthotist, you could work with people recovering from a stroke, those with rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, or cerebral palsy. Your main duties would usually include:

  • assessing a patient's needs before they have an artificial limb or appliance fitted
  • taking measurements and using computer modelling to produce a design of the prostheses or orthoses
  • explaining a finished design to a technician, who will produce the final product
  • carrying out follow-up checks with patients to see how they are coping with their device
  • making sure the appliance or limb is functioning properly, and is comfortable
  • carrying out adjustments or repairs if needed.

You would work alongside other healthcare professionals such as physiotherapists, who would oversee the patient's exercise regime; and occupational therapists who would train the patient in how to perform daily activities with the device.


Hours

You would usually work between 37 and 40 hours a week Monday to Friday. Part-time or flexible hours may also be available.

You would work within hospitals, clinics and health centres. You might also need to visit patients in their own homes.


Income

The pay structure in the NHS is called Agenda for Change (AfC). Most prosthetists, if employed directly by the NHS, are paid under the healthcare scientist pay bands.

  • Starting salaries are on band 5 between £21,388 to £27,901 a year
  • With experience, prosthetists/orthotists can progress to band 6 earning between £25,783 and £34,530
  • As a healthcare science consultant, prosthetists/orthotists can earn up to £67,805 a year.

A lot of prosthetists are employed by private companies who are contracted by the NHS. They will negotiate their pay directly with the company that employs them. Salaries will be in line with the figures above.


Entry requirements

You will need to take a three or four-year BSc (Hons) degree in Prosthetics and Orthotics, approved by the British Association of Prosthetists and Orthotists and the Health and Care Professions Council. The approved degree course is available at two universities in the UK:

To get on to a degree you will usually need at least five GCSEs (A-C) including English, maths and a science-based subject, plus three A levels including maths and either biology, physics or chemistry.

Check with course providers for exact entry details because alternative qualifications may also be accepted. For example if you do not have qualifications in science you may be able to take a foundation year.

If you are a UK resident you will have your tuition fees paid for you and you may also be able to get a grant, depending on your financial circumstances. For more information, go to the NHS Business Services Authority website.


Training and development

Once you are an approved degree course, you will combine academic studies with clinical placements where you will get the chance to see patients wearing prostheses and othoses. You will study subjects such as:

  • anatomy (the structure of the body)
  • physiology (function of the body)
  • pathology (the nature and cause of disease)
  • human motion analysis (how the body moves)
  • materials and design (how prostheses and orthotics are made).

When you have completed the degree, you can specialise in one area or practise both prosthetics and orthotics.

The University of Strathclyde and the University of Salford offer a range of relevant open-learning, postgraduate, taught Masters and research qualifications. Entry requirements usually include an Honours degree in a relevant subject or an alternative professional qualification.

You will also have access to further training and short courses through the British Association of Prosthetists and Orthotists (BAPO).


Skills, interests and qualities

To become a prosthetist or orthotist you will need to have:

  • an interest in how the human body works and moves
  • technical and practical skills
  • good problem solving skills
  • creativity to design and produce devices
  • good communication skills
  • sensitivity and understanding to the needs of patients
  • the ability to use your initiative and work well in a team
  • strong IT skills (as computer technology is becoming an increasingly important tool of the job).

More information

National Centre for Training and Education in Prosthetics and Orthotics (Opens new window)
University of Strathclyde
Curran Building
131 St James Road
Glasgow
G4 0LS
www.strath.ac.uk/prosthetics

NHS Careers (Opens new window)
PO Box 2311
Bristol
BS2 2ZX
Tel: 0345 60 60 655
www.nhscareers.nhs.uk

Health Learning and Skills Advice Line (Opens new window)
Tel: 08000 150850

British Association of Prosthetists and Orthotists (Opens new window)
Sir James Clark Building
Abbey Mill Business Centre
Paisley
PA1 1TJ
0141 561 7217
www.bapo.com

University of Salford (School of Health Sciences) (Opens new window)
University of Salford
School of Health Care Professions
Frederick Road
Salford
M6 6PU
www.healthcare.salford.ac.uk


 

Opportunities

You are likely to start your career within a commercial orthotic or prosthetic manufacturing company (often working under contracts with the NHS). You could also work directly with the NHS.

With experience, you could progress to a management post or move into a specialist clinical area. You could also move into teaching, or a research and development post.

There is a world-wide shortage of graduate prosthetists and orthotists and career prospects are excellent according to the BAPO. UK courses are recognised overseas, and you will be able to find job opportunities in other countries. You might find work with manufacturing and servicing companies, or in private practice. You could also work with organisations such as the Red Cross who work with communities traumatised by war.

You may find the following useful for job vacancies and general reading:


 

Related industry information

Industry summary

The health sector is represented by Skills for Health Sector Skills Council, which comprises three sub‐sectors:

  • National Health Service (NHS)
  • Independent Healthcare Sector (such as private and charitable healthcare providers)
  • Third Sector (healthcare) (such as small local community and voluntary groups, registered charities, foundations, trusts, social enterprises and co‐operatives)

The health sector is made up of hospitals, doctors’ surgeries, dental practices, the ambulance service, nursing homes, residential care homes, complementary medicine and a huge range of other health related activities, from sight tests in opticians to research in medical laboratories. Most people in the health sector work in the publicly funded National Health Service (NHS), which includes:

  • primary care (organisations which the public goes to first) – Doctors/General Practitioners (GPs), NHS Walk in Centres, NHS Direct, Out of Hours Emergency Care
  • secondary care (organisations which the public are referred onto) – Ambulance Trusts, NHS Trusts/hospitals, NHS Foundation Trusts/hospitals, Mental Health Trusts, Care Trusts (provide joint health and social care activities)

NHS policy in England is directed from the centre by the Department of Health. Local organisations, known as Primary Care Trusts (PCTs), are in charge of providing and commissioning services, controlling the majority of the budget. PCTs are overseen by 10 regional organisations called Strategic Health Authorities (SHAs).

The independent sector includes companies and charities that offer hospital and specialist services usually after referral from a doctor. Operations and other work are carried out in private hospitals, independent treatment centres, mental health units and hospices.

Key facts:

  • The health sector is the largest employer in the UK, representing 5.5% of the working age population of the UK and 7.3% of the working age population that are currently in employment.
  • It is estimated that the sector employs over 2 million people, including:
    • over 1.5 million people in the NHS (72%)
    • over 0.5 million people in the Independent Healthcare sector (26%)
    • almost 40,000 in the voluntary sector (2%)
  • 56% of the workforce has a higher education qualification (or equivalent).
  • The age profile for the sector shows an older than average workforce, which is due in part to the fact that it takes some professions a long time to train and can mean that people enter the sector later.

There is a varied list of jobs in the sector ranging from a diverse number of clinical roles, to support and infrastructure staff, for instance: Allied Health Professionals (AHPs); Ambulance Staff; Dental Staff; Doctors/Medical staff; Nursing staff; Midwifery Staff; Healthcare Scientists; Health Informatics Staff; Management; Wider Healthcare Team; Complementary Therapists.


National and regional data

High proportions of the health sector workforce are located in:

  • London
  • South East
  • North West
East Midlands
  • The health sector employs 131,515 people, which accounts for 7% of all employment in the region.
  • The East Midlands employs 8% of the total health sector workforce for England.
  • The private sector accounts for 29% of all employment across the sector or 41,200 employees.
  • Between 2007 and 2017, the total requirement for workforce will be approximately 133,000 people. This is the total of the predicted expansion plus replacement demand.
East of England
  • The health sector employs 164,720 people, which accounts for 7% of all employment in the region.
  • The East of England employs 9.8 % of the total health sector workforce for England.
  • The private sector accounts for 30% of all employment across the sector or 52,300 employees.
  • Vacancies in the health and social work sector account for 14% of all industry vacancies.
  • Between 2007 and 2017, the total requirement for workforce will be approximately 103,000 people. This is the total of the predicted expansion plus replacement demand.
London
  • The health sector employs over 249,524 people, which accounts for 6% of all the employment in the region.
  • London employs 15% of the total health sector workforce for England.
  • The private sector accounts for 33% of all employment across the sector or 78,500 employees.
  • Vacancies in health and social work account for 12% of all industry vacancies.
  • Between 2007 and 2017, the total requirement for workforce will be approximately 146,000 people. This is the total of the predicted expansion plus replacement demand.
North East
  • The health sector employs 89,201 people, which accounts for 8.7% of all employment in the region.
  • The North East employs 5.3 % of the total health sector workforce for England.
  • The private sector accounts for 25% of all employment across the sector or 23,800 employees.
  • Vacancies in the health and social work sector account for 12% of all industry vacancies.
  • Between 2007 and 2017, the total requirement for workforce will be almost 46,000 people. This is the total of the predicted expansion plus replacement demand.
North West
  • The health sector employs 251,960 people, which accounts for 8% of all employment in the region.
  • The North West employs 15% of the total health sector workforce for England.
  • The private sector accounts for 23.5% of all employment across the sector or 59,200 employees.
  • Vacancies in the health and social work account for 11% of all industry vacancies.
  • Between 2007 and 2017, the total requirement for workforce will be approximately 133,000 people. This is the total of the predicted expansion plus replacement demand.
South East
  • The health sector employs 264,071 people, which accounts for 7.1% of all employment in the region.
  • The South East employs 15.7% of the total health sector workforce for England.
  • The private sector accounts for 23.5% of all employment across the sector or 59,200 employees.
  • Vacancies in the health and social work sector account for 12% of all Industry vacancies.
  • Between 2007 and 2017, the total requirement for workforce will be approximately 164,000 people. This is the total of the predicted expansion plus replacement demand.
South West
  • The health sector employs 182,187 people, which accounts for 8.2% of all employment in the region.
  • The South West employs 10.8 % of the total health sector workforce for England.
  • The private sector accounts for 30% of all employment across the sector or 60,700 employees.
  • Vacancies in the health and social work sector account for 12% of all Industry vacancies.
  • Between 2007 and 2017, the total requirement for workforce will be approximately 105,000 people. This is the total of the predicted expansion plus replacement demand.
West Midlands
  • The health sector employs 168,746 people, which accounts for 7.2% of all employment in the region.
  • The West Midlands employs 10% of the total health sector workforce for England.
  • The private sector accounts for 25% of all employment across the sector or 43,000 employees.
  • Vacancies in the health and social work sector account for 9% of all industry vacancies.
  • Between 2007 and 2017, the total requirement for workforce will be approximately 108,000 people. This is the total of the predicted expansion plus replacement demand.
Yorkshire and the Humber
  • The health sector employs 182,848 people, which accounts for 8.2% of all employment in the region.
  • Yorkshire and the Humber employ 10.9 % of the total health sector workforce for England.
  • The private sector accounts for 24% of the total health care workforce or 42,000 employees.
  • Vacancies in health and social work account for 11% of all industry vacancies.
  • Between 2007 and 2017, the total requirement for workforce will be approximately 97,000 people. This is the total of the predicted expansion plus replacement demand.
Northern Ireland
  • The health sector employs 61,300 people.
  • Northern Ireland employs 3% of the total health sector workforce.
  • 81% of the workforce is female.
  • 26% of the workforce is aged 35‐44 years.
  • 96% of the workforce is white.
  • 10% of the workforce reports a disability.
  • 48% of the workforce is in Associate Professional and Technical occupations.
  • 23% of organisations in the health and social work sector report vacancies.
Scotland
  • The health sector employs 201,500 people.
  • Scotland employs 10% of the total health sector workforce.
  • 78% of the workforce is female.
  • 30% of the workforce is aged 45‐54 years.
  • 95% of the workforce is white.
  • 14% of the workforce reports a disability.
  • 39% of the workforce is in Associate Professional and Technical occupations.
  • 23% of organisations in the health and social work sector report vacancies.
Wales
  • The health sector employs 114,900 people.
  • Wales employs 6% of the total health sector workforce.
  • 74% of the workforce is female.
  • 34% of the workforce is aged 45‐54 years.
  • 94% of the workforce is white.
  • 18% of the workforce reports a disability.
  • 40% of the workforce is in Associate Professional and Technical occupations.
  • 27% of organisations in the health and social work sector report vacancies.

[N.B. Data derived from Labour Force Survey, 2008‐2009, Annual Business Inquiry, 2007, and Northern Ireland Census of Employment, 2007]


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