What is an Assistant Practitioner?

An Assistant Practitioner is the podiatry support worker. All those currently working as Foot Care Assistants/Podiatry Assistants would all come under this one title. The individual pay and scope of practice will depend on the level of training, service requirement and departmental structure.

In the NHS, this would give scope for “lower” or “higher” level depending on the role, within Private Practice the employing Podiatrist would define the role (within the scope of practice set by the College of Podiatry) and set pay accordingly. These practitioners would be eligible for associate membership of the Royal College of Podiatry, provided they meet agreed training and practice levels.

All training would have to be accredited by the College, and there may be several different routes including the College training package, Foundation degrees and students ‘stepping off ‘of podiatry programmes at the appropriate level.        

History of Assistant Practitioners    
Podiatry Assistants were officially introduced by the Department of Health in 1977. This encouraged the then Area Health Authorities to employ Podiatry Assistants to help overburdened podiatry services. Guidance was given on the conditions of employment, including a pay structure, and stated that the manager of the service would be responsible for training. Some health authorities had previously employed assistants within the podiatry department but with minimal training and little or no direct patient care was undertaken.

The Association of Chief Podiatry Officers (ACCO), having fully participated in the introduction of Podiatry Assistants into the health service, gave its official backing by establishing a sub-committee to investigate and develop their training needs. The ACCO National Training Guidelines were developed, and Podiatry Assistants’ work became a recognised and vital part of most podiatry services, providing much needed foot care for elderly and disabled persons who could not care for themselves.

In 1998, ACCO and the Podiatry Association both merged with the Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists and training of practitioners became the responsibility of the Faculty of Education and the thirteen schools of Podiatry education nationally.
Within the training the most important factor is the accountability of the Assistant Practitioner to a HCPC registered podiatrist, who takes full responsibility for the patient’s package of care. Assistant Practitioners, therefore, work under the direction and supervision of a Podiatrist. This close working relationship enables the Assistant Practitioner’s own skills, expertise and ability to be developed and encouraged.

The duties and scope of practice of Assistant Practitioners will be determined by the local NHS Podiatry Services Manager or other relevant employer, not exceeding the guidelines published by the Royal College of Podiatry.