Operating department practitioner

Operating department practitioners (ODPs) are essential members of multidisciplinary operating theatre teams. They work with other medical staff and healthcare professionals to provide a high standard of patient-centred perioperative care. ODPs ensure the patients' physical and psychological needs are met before, during and after surgery and anaesthesia.

Operating department practitioners work with surgeons, anaesthetists, nurses and theatre support workers so that procedures carried out in the operating theatre are safe and effective and help ensure a successful outcome for patients.

ODPs have an important role in the three phases of perioperative care which are:

  • the anaesthetic phase - assisting the patient before surgery, preparing specialist equipment and drugs
  • the surgical phase - working alongside the surgeon, providing the correct surgical instruments and materials
  • the recovery phase - assessing and monitoring the patient

As an ODP, you would work mostly in surgical operating departments, but you could also work in other critical care areas in the hospital, such as the emergency department (ED), intensive care units (ICUs) and maternity units.

Your main responsibilities would include:

  • Checking the cleanliness of the operating theatre and ensure it is properly prepared
  • Ensuring equipment such as drips, instruments, dressings and swabs are available for each procedure
  • Ensuring that any specialist equipment is available for specific procedures
  • Providing instruments to the surgical team during an operation, such as scalpels, clamps, forceps, scissors and cannulas
  • Monitoring instruments during each procedure
  • Keeping accurate records
  • Ordering drugs and other items for the surgical operating department

Useful skills include:

  • strong communication skills
  • empathy
  • a caring and understanding manner
  • team working

Useful abilities include:

  • the ability to work with people
  • the ability to work with different equipment and materials
  • the ability to manage your own time and work schedule

To work as an operating department practitioner in NHSScotland, you must be registered with the Health & Care Professions Council (HCPC). You will need to study an approved pre-registration programme, which takes 2-3 years full-time, depending on whether you undertake a diploma of higher education (DipHE) or bachelor of science (BSc) course.

Entry requirements vary depending on the university or other education providers. Specific entry requirements, including other accepted qualifications, are provided on each university website. You can also find details of entry requirements for each course on the UCAS website.

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

Previous experience of paid or voluntary work in a hospital or other healthcare setting may also be an advantage. This will give you valuable insight into what the job entails and support your personal statement in your application.

Once you have graduated, you'll be eligible to apply for registration.

Scottish Wider Access Programme (SWAP) – Access to Health & Life Sciences (SCQF Level 6) or Access to Biological Sciences (SCQF Level 6) 

These programmes are for adults returning to education, perhaps changing career or seeking to gain the equivalent university entry qualifications needed for an operating department practice undergraduate programme. There are no formal entry qualifications, but applicants should have a good standard of general education and have been away from formal education for a minimum of 2 – 3 years.

Successful completion of the course could lead to: 

  • A degree in operating department practice by applying to universities that participate in the SWAP partnership programme
  • Diploma of Higher Education (DipHE)

Please visit the Scottish Wider Access Programme (SWAP) website for more information or you can view the following videos:

Modern Apprenticeships offer those aged over 16 paid employment with the opportunity to train for jobs at craft, technician and management level.

The Modern Apprenticeship in Healthcare Support (clinical) at SCQF Level 6 and SCQF Level 7 is a framework for people interested in working in a clinical healthcare setting.

For more information about this Modern Apprenticeship framework, look at:

Contact your local NHSScotland board to find out if this Modern Apprenticeship is available in your area.

Once qualified and registered with Health & Care Professions Council (HCPC), you also join the College of Operating Department Assistants (CODP) and the Association for Perioperative Practice (AfPP).

Continuing professional development (CPD)

As a qualified operating department practitioner, you would be expected to undertake CPD activities in order to:

  • keep your knowledge and skills up to date
  • maintain your registration with the HCPC and meet their conduct, proficiency and ethics standards

The HCPC provides courses, conferences and seminars where you can exchange ideas and update skills.

Career progression

During your career as an ODP, you can gain further qualifications, which may help your career prospects, leading to more senior roles.

It is possible to become a senior ODP, perhaps taking managerial responsibility for the staffing and overall management of operating theatre suites. 

There are also opportunities in research, education and training.

Find out more information from these professional and regulatory bodies: 

Health & Care Professions Council (HCPC)

The HCPC is an independent, UK-wide regulatory body responsible for setting and maintaining standards for health, psychological, and in England; social work professionals. It maintains a public register of qualified professionals and works to improve industry standards and education. Visit the HCPC website to find out more.


College of Operating Department Assistants (COPD)

The College of Operating Department Practitioners (CODP) is the professional body for Operating
Department Practitioners (ODPs). The CODP is a subsidiary of UNISON, but retains its autonomy with regard to professional matters. Find out more on the UNISON website.


Association for Perioperative Practice (AfPP)

The AfPP supports Operating Department Practitioners, Theatre Nurses and Healthcare Support Workers, setting standards and guidance on best practice. Visit the AfPP website for more information.


Faculty of Perioperative Care

The Faculty of Perioperative Care is based at the Royal College of Surgeons, Edinburgh (RCSEd) and provides support and career development opportunities for practitioners working in perioperative care. Find out more on the RCSEd website.