Study reveals significant deficit in the UK’s prosthetic and orthotic workforce

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A study by Staffordshire University has revealed a significant shortage in the number of prosthetists, orthotists, prosthetic and orthotic technicians and support staff in the UK.

The Center for Biomechanics and Rehabilitation Technologies (CBRT) report was officially launched today, 6 November 2023.

The study, carried out by the British Association of Prosthetists and Orthotists (BAPO), found there are currently 631 orthotists and 295 prosthetists employed nationwide. However, an additional 142 to 477 prosthetists/orthotists are needed to meet WHO standards of care.

This manpower shortage is alarming. With our aging population, the demand for prosthetic and orthotic services will only increase. We urgently need strategies to grow and sustain this profession.”

Professor Nachi Chokalingam, CBRT director and senior author of the study

The study identified a shortage of qualified technicians and support staff to support the prosthetist/orthotist team, with a shortfall of 1,133 to 1,803 individuals according to WHO benchmarks. Significant recruitment challenges were reported by both NHS and private sector employers.

“This groundbreaking report provides hard evidence for us to take action,” said lead researcher Dr Nicky Addison. “Working with professional bodies, higher education institutions and industry we must inspire the next generation and make prosthetics/orthotics an attractive career choice.”

The report also highlighted retention issues, with 1 in 5 prosthetists/orthotists indicating they may leave the field in the next five years. Key factors include lack of career progression, poor work-life balance and lack of flexibility.

Another senior author, Dr Aoife Healy, added: “Prosthetist/orthotist is an incredibly skilled profession that allows a high degree of creativity combined with cutting-edge technology to transform patients’ lives.”

Mr Peter Iliff, Chair of the British Association of Prosthetists and Orthotists, said: “We need to nurture these professionals so they feel valued and are able to progress throughout their careers. BAPO has committed to implement the report’s recommendations on enhanced educational programs, expanded roles For Prosthetic/Orthotic Associates, and Greater Support for Workforce Sustainment.”

“With commitment from all stakeholders, we can build the prosthetic/orthotic workforce needed to provide quality care to all,” said Prof. Chokalingam. “We look forward to partnering with the health sector to make this vision a reality.”

The full report ‘Investigation of the UK Prosthetic and Orthotic Workforce’ is also available on the BAPO website.

Watch the report launch event to hear more about the research from the study authors.

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