ISPO UK ASM 2023 - Free Paper Abstracts


Current status of the UK orthotic and prosthetic workforce and implications for the future

Presenter:  Aoife Healy, Associate Professor, Centre for Biomechanics and Rehabilitation Technologies, Staffordshire University


Other authors:  Nachiappan Chockalingam, Nicola Eddison, Caroline Jackson, Enza Leone, Bracken Pluckrose

Within NHS England, prosthetists and orthotists (POs) are the smallest of the 14 allied health profession (AHP) workforces. Obtaining data on the prosthetic and orthotic (P&O) workforce has always been challenging due to this information being held across different organisations. To meet the changing needs of users of P&O services is it essential to have an insight into the (P&O) workforce. A growing concern is the anticipated rise in demand for P&O services due to population ageing and the increasing prevalence of non-communicable diseases, such as diabetes, coupled with staff retention issues [1].

The study aims to generate an overview of the UK P&O workforce and P&O service provision. To gather the required information a combined approach was required. Two surveys (one for the workforce and one for P&O private companies) and two freedom of information (FOI) requests (one for all NHS Trust and Health Board (HB) in the UK and one for the higher education institutes in the UK offering programmes leading to registration as a PO) were developed and distributed from September to December 2022.

We received a 74% response rate (863 POs) for the workforce survey and 25 private companies reported employing P&O staffing groups. From the FOI requests to NHS Trusts/HBs, 181 of a potential 194 responded. All four higher education institutions responded to their FOI request.

Results showed that 1,766 people were currently employed in the UK P&O workforce, with the largest percentage of the workforce employed as orthotists (32%) and orthotic technicians (30%). More prosthetists (65%) and orthotists (57%) were employed by private companies compared to the NHS. A potential attrition issue was identified with many POs indicating that they were considering leaving the workforce; just 34% stated that they definitely planned to remain in the workforce for the next five years.

The World Health Organisation recommends that there should be 15-20 POs per million population [2], the current UK employment levels are 142 to 477 POs short of this recommendation. The potential workforce attrition and projected increase in people who will require P&O care in the UK are challenges for future service provision.  To meet the requirements of the changing healthcare environment strategies are required to create a sustainable and resilient P&O workforce.

1. Prosser K, Achour N. Job satisfaction among NHS and private orthotists: a cross-sectional comparative study. British Journal of Healthcare Management 2023;29:42–50.
2. World Health Organization. Standards for Prosthetics and Orthotics Part 2: Implementation manual 2017.


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