Prosthetist and orthotist in the NHS in Scotland

Prosthetists are qualified to fit artificial limbs, called prostheses, to replace arms and legs lost through amputation or those missing at birth. They work with other healthcare professionals, such as prosthetic technicians to design and fit prostheses. Prosthetists also advise on aftercare and rehabilitation.

Orthotists provide care for people who need externally applied devices to provide support to limbs and the spine, or to control part of their body due to paralysed muscles. Orthotists assess their patient’s condition using the latest technologies and prescribe support aids called orthoses to meet their needs. The patient may need to wear the orthoses temporarily or permanently, depending on their condition.

My name's Emma O'Neill. I'm an Orthotist for the NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde.

We basically diagnose and assess patient's functional loss, or whatever they're needing. It's the whole body, so it's diagnosing whether they've got pain, what's causing the pain, or if they need help walking, or whatever it is they need and then prescribing them something to wear to increase their function.

I think the most important skill to have for the job is communication. Usually, patients don't know what orthotics is. They've never heard of it, so it's really going through the whole treatment plan with them and communicating well with them.

[Also important are] problem-solving skills. Not one thing will always treat the patient, so something that works for someone will have to be altered for another person. It's quite like DIY, making things and just trying to turn something out of nothing. But, I also like the science side of it, so I ventured towards different health professions and trying to help people, but this was great because I got to use my manual side as well. So, then I found out about the course, that's what drew me to it.

I tend to like the out-patient clinics. There's a lot of problem solving and challenges with new patients. So, it's nice to have something different what walks into the clinic and problem-solve around that and what you want to do with the patient.

I know I make a difference with patients. They usually come in, in a bit of pain, or they've got weakness in say, they can't use a leg, so it's making them something to improve that and improve their activity levels or reduce their pain, or whatever we want to do. It's nice to see them from review to review, getting better all the time. I know I make that difference.


A prosthetist provides prostheses to meet the needs of their patient who has lost a limb through amputation or were born with a limb missing.

As a prosthetist, you would work closely with the patient to understand their needs and ambitions. For example, some prostheses are specially designed for a particular use or activity, such as sports.

After measuring the patient, you would make a model of the remaining limb where the artificial limb will be fitted. You would then fit the prosthesis once it has been made, to ensure comfort and performance.

Working with doctors, nurses, physiotherapists, and occupational therapists, you’ll provide advice to ensure the patient receives appropriate rehabilitation and aftercare support.


An orthotist provides a range of aids to correct problems or deformities of patients' nerves, muscles or bones.

As an orthotist, you would assess your patient’s condition in order to design and fit orthoses to aid movement, stop deformities from progressing, or relieve discomfort. Orthotists will treat the patient from head to toe for a variety of presentations including:

  • back pain
  • knee pain
  • sports related injuries
  • foot pain
  • limb or spinal deformity

Using measurements, casts, drafts, digital imaging techniques, computer-aided design and computer-aided modeling, you would design and fit surgical appliances such as braces, calipers, neck collars and splints.

As a prosthetist or orthotist, you may work with people who have conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, cerebral palsy or those recovering from a brain injury or stroke.

Your main responsibilities include:

  • assessing a patient's needs and taking measurements
  • fitting artificial limbs or surgical devices
  • using the latest techniques and technologies to design prostheses or orthoses
  • explaining designs to orthotic/prosthetic  technicians so the final product can be produced
  • following up with patients to see how they are coping with their device
  • carrying out assessments to ensure the device or limb is functioning properly
  • making adjustments or repairs if needed

To work as a prosthetist or orthotist, useful skills will include:

  • technical and practical skills
  • patience, determination and a positive attitude
  • strong communication skills
  • teamworking skills
  • committed to the wellbeing of patients
  • professional with an excellent work ethic
  • strong IT skills

Useful abilities include:

  • the ability to work with people with different lifestyles and backgrounds
  • the ability to design and develop treatment programmes
  • confident and happy to be hands-on with patients
  • being a good listener
  • being patient and understanding
  • the ability to explain treatment to patients

To practice as a prosthetist or an orthotist in NHSScotland, you must be registered with the Health & Care Professions Council (HCPC). You will need to study an approved pre-registration programme.

In Scotland, you can study for a BSc Prosthetics & Orthotics at Strathclyde University. This programme is approved by the HCPC and takes 4 years full time. To gain access to the course, you are likely to need SQA Highers at grades AAAB or AABBB, including Maths at grade A as well as Physics and Biology and grades A or B.The university will also accept SQA HND Engineering for entry to year 1.

Specific entry requirements, including other accepted qualifications, are provided on the university’s website. To apply for this programme, you must use the UCAS application process.

You can visit the HCPC website for a full list of approved educational institutions and programmes across the UK. 

Postgraduate study

If you already have a relevant degree and healthcare experience, you can take an MSc Prosthetics & Orthotics at Strathclyde University.

Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) scheme

You will require a satisfactory (PVG) check to show that you are suitable to work as a Prosthetist or an Orthotist. This scheme is managed by Disclosure Scotland.

Once qualified and registered with the Health & Care Professions Council, you can choose to specialise either as a prosthetist or an orthotist. You can also join The British Association of Prosthetists and Orthotists (BAPO).

You'll have to keep your skills and knowledge up to date with annual continuing professional development (CPD).

The British Association of Orthotists and Prosthetists runs courses, conferences, and seminars where you can exchange ideas and update skills.

During your career, you may choose to specialise in a particular area of practice such as sports injuries, diabetes, forensic podiatry or working with children.

You could also move into management, either within orthotics and prosthetics services or general management. As head of a local orthotics and prosthetics service, you would be responsible both for a team of staff and for managing a budget.