Allied Health Professionals

globe and paper figures

The Allied Health Professions (AHPs) comprise of 15 occupations and form one of the largest parts of the clinical workforce in health and social care in England. The list below shows the range of the of AHP occupations and links to the brief description of each role set out on the page. Where training for the role is available through an apprenticeship we have made a note of this.

The NHS Long Term Plan describes AHPs as playing a central role in the delivery of person-centred care to help meet the changing demands the NHS is facing. As these demands continue to increase, the shape of the workforce is likely to change as new models of care are explored. Reports on meeting this challenge through the integration of new roles, and reshaping the workforce are available on our web page workforce supply research and reports.

To read about all the allied health professions, use the jump links below:

Diagnostic radiographers

Therapeutic radiographers

Operating department practitioners 

Paramedics

Occupational therapists

Speech and language therapists

Dietitians

Podiatrists

Prosthetists and orthotists

Physiotherapists

Orthoptists

Osteopaths

Art therapists

Drama therapists

Music therapists

Diagnostic radiographers

Diagnostic radiographers use the latest x-ray, MRI and other technology and techniques to look inside patients' bodies and work out what disease or condition is causing a patient’s illness. In the NHS diagnostic radiographers work in the radiology and imaging departments to capture, interpret images, and report their findings on a huge variety of patients. They provide a service for most departments within the hospital including accident and emergency, outpatients, operating theatres, and wards.

Training to become diagnostic radiographer is available through approved university courses or as a degree apprenticeship and typically take up to three years to complete. There are also postgraduate programmes available. In order to practice, diagnostic radiographers must be registered with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC).

Therapeutic radiographers

Therapeutic radiographers use doses of x-rays and other radiation to treat and care for people with medical conditions, mainly cancer and tumours. Using highly advanced technology to target and deliver treatment the role also involves looking after patients, their families and carers during radiotherapy, answering questions and prescribing treatment for any side-effects.
Therapeutic radiographers are based in hospital settings working with the oncology team and support services through the planning and treatment process, and eventually post-treatment review.

Training to become a therapeutic radiographer is accessible through an undergraduate degree or postgraduate diploma course, or the approved degree apprenticeship route. To practice as a therapeutic radiographer they must be registered with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) and may also join the Society of Radiographers who run courses, conferences and seminars to keep their skills and knowledge up to date.

Operating department practitioners

Operating department practitioners (ODPs) are part of a hospital’s surgery team and care for patients of all ages who are having operations for any reason. They work in a range of areas around the hospital, for example, in intensive care, accident and emergency, maternity wards and act as a link between the surgical team and the other departments. ODPs are involved before, during and after the operation itself and work closely with anaesthetists and surgeons to help prepare patients for surgery. They also prepare the operating theatre and instruments, and support patients as they recover from their operation.

Those wishing to become an ODP study a degree or diploma level course, or train through the approved degree apprenticeship. Once qualified they apply to register with the Health and Care Professions Council.

Paramedics

Paramedics are senior ambulance service healthcare professionals that respond to a range of emergency and non-emergency situations. They assess patients and make potentially life-saving decisions about whether and how to treat people at the scene, or transfer them to hospital and use a range of high-tech equipment such as defibrillators, spinal and traction splints as well as administering oxygen and drugs.

Based at ambulance stations, paramedics work closely with other teams in the local area, including GP surgeries, mental health teams and hospital accident and emergency departments. They also deal with relatives and friends of the patient and members of the public and will often work alongside the police and fire and rescue services. Paramedics register with the Health and Care Professions Council having successfully completed an approved qualification in paramedic science. The different routes to studying and qualifying as a paramedic include:

  • a full-time approved qualification in paramedic science (e.g. at a university)
  • as a student paramedic with an ambulance service who studies while they work
  • through the degree paramedic apprenticeship

Occupational therapists

Occupational therapists (OTs) often work as part of a team with a variety of other health professionals to help patients continue their work, studies, leisure activities and everyday tasks. They work with people who have difficulties because of disability, illness, trauma, ageing, or long-term conditions. OTs help people learn to use assistive technology, help adapt their home or workplace, or find new ways to approach tasks.

Training to become an occupational therapist is available through a full-time university course or degree apprenticeship, or for those who already have a relevant degree, at masters level through a two-year accelerated programme. Upon qualifying, OTs are required to register with the Health and Care Professions Council.

Speech and language therapists

Speech and language therapists work with people who, for physical or psychological reasons, have problems with speaking and communicating, or with eating, drinking and swallowing. They work with a wide age range of patients including children whose speech is slow to develop, and older people whose ability to speak has been impaired by illness or injury.
Speech and language therapists work with other health professionals in a range of settings, from hospitals to community clinics, schools and even in patients’ own homes.

To become a speech and language therapist training is available through approved university courses at degree or postgraduate level, or via the degree apprenticeship route. Once qualified they are required to register with the Health and Care Professions Council before they can practice.

Dietitians

Patients who want to lose weight, or to gain weight after an illness, or to improve their sports performance, might visit a dietitian. Dietitians help people make informed and practical choices about food, based on the science of nutrition and also help patients who have eating disorders, digestive problems, HIV or allergies.

As well as diagnosing and treating problems, dietitians teach the people to understand food, promote good health and prevent disease. They may work in hospitals or in the community with nutritionists and dietetic assistants, or other health professionals, to treat complex conditions like diabetes, eating disorders and kidney failure.

Training to become a dietitian can be accessed through an approved degree in dietetics, or a shortened postgraduate programme with a relevant first degree. An approved degree apprenticeship in dietetics is also available. Practising dietitians must also be registered with the Health and Care Professions Council

Podiatrists

Podiatrists work with patients' feet, ankles and lower limbs and are experts in the structure, function and health of these parts of the body. Podiatrists diagnose and treat abnormalities and offer support to manage problems, relieve pain, treat infection to prevent foot problems and see patients at high risk of amputation, such as those suffering from arthritis or diabetes
Podiatrists can work with other healthcare professionals in a multi-disciplinary team and in a range of settings from hospitals to community clinics, to the homes of patients. Some podiatrists specialise in treating children and some do post-graduate study to become podiatric surgeons.

To practice as a podiatrist they must register with the Health and Care Professions Council after successfully completing an approved programme at degree or masters-level in podiatry, or Podiatrist degree apprenticeship.

Prosthetists and orthotists

Prosthetists work with patients who are missing a limb and design and create prostheses, or artificial replacements which match as closely as possible their missing limb. A patient might need a prosthesis if they were born without a limb, or after an accident or trauma. Many prosthetics patients are veterans.

Orthotists provide a range of aids including splints, braces and special footwear that are used to correct problems or deformities in the patient’s nerves, muscles, or bones to help them move or to treat an issue. Patients might see an orthotist if they have diabetes, arthritis, cerebral palsy, spina bifida or a sports injury. Prosthetics and orthotics involve a unique mix of healthcare, engineering and creativity and usually work with a team of other health professionals, including technicians, physiotherapists, nurses, and doctors.

Becoming a prosthetist or an orthotist requires completing an approved degree or an approved degree apprenticeship in prosthetics and orthotics before they can register with the Health and Care Professions Council.

Physiotherapists

Physiotherapists work with people to help with physical problems caused by illness, injury, disability or ageing which affects their movement. They use exercise, massage and other techniques to treat many types of conditions, including neurological, neuromusculoskeletal, cardiovascular or respiratory. Physiotherapists can be based in a hospital, or work out in the community, in a health centre or visiting patients’ homes and can work alone or in teams with other professionals, such as GPs, health visitors, social workers, sports coaches and personal trainers.

Physiotherapists register with the Health and Care Professions Council after successfully completing an approved degree qualification in physiotherapy or degree apprenticeship in physiotherapy. There are also two-year accelerated MSc courses available to people who already have a BSc degree in a relevant subject.

Orthoptists

Most orthoptists are based in hospitals and treat a wide variety of patients including children and adults with a range of treatment and therapies. Orthoptists specialise in diagnosing and managing eye conditions that affect how eye structures develop and how the brain controls eye movements. The problems that an orthoptist might treat can include double vision, reduced vision and eyes that turn or squint. They may also be involved in the rehabilitation of patients who have suffered stroke or brain injuries or diagnosing and monitoring long term eye conditions such as glaucoma.

To practice as an orthoptist they must be registered with the Health and Care Professions Council having successfully completed an approved degree in orthoptics. Currently the degree courses are available at three universities in the UK and take three or four years to complete.

Osteopaths

Osteopaths work with patients of all ages and are experts in the musculoskeletal system. They diagnose and treat a wide range of conditions using exercise and physical therapy to manipulate muscles and joints to help with pain and promote better general health. Working closely with physiotherapists and podiatrists many osteopaths are self-employed and work within primary care, or private practice, although some work within the NHS and in secondary care.

Training to become an osteopath is available through degree level bachelor’s (BSc) or masters of science (MSc) courses that typically take four or five years to complete, they must then be registered with the General Osteopathic Council to practise in the UK.

Art therapists

Art therapy is a form of psychotherapy that uses art to help people communicate and address a range of emotional issues. They work in a variety of settings and with people of all ages from children to the elderly. Patients may have a range of difficulties such as emotional, behavioural, or mental health problems, learning disabilities, life-limiting conditions, neurological conditions or physical illnesses.

Anyone wishing to become an art therapist must complete an approved masters degree in art therapy or art psychotherapy and register with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC). Training for this role is available through university courses or the level 7 apprenticeship route and typically take 24 months to complete.

Dramatherapists

Dramatherapists work with people of all ages and with a range of difficulties such as emotional, behavioural or mental health problems, learning or physical disabilities, or physical illnesses. They work in a variety of settings and use role play, voice work, movement and storytelling to help patients explore and solve personal and social problems either in one-to-one or in group sessions. 

To become a dramatherapist requires professional experience in an area of therapy or health care, for example, nursing, social work, special needs or psychotherapy, or voluntary experience of working with people in a therapeutic setting. Applicants study a postgraduate qualification in dramatherapy or via the art therapy level 7 apprenticeship route. The training typically takes two years to complete and entry usually requires a degree-level qualification. Once qualified they register with the Health and Care Professions Council.

Music therapists 

Music therapy is a psychological therapy that uses music to help people deal with feelings they cannot put into words and is used to facilitate positive changes in their emotional wellbeing. Music therapists do not teach people how to play an instrument but use their skills to help people who usually have difficulty communicating. This may be because of a neurological condition, a behavioural issue, a physical disability, or a range of other problems. Therapists work with people of all ages in one to one sessions or in groups, depending on the needs of the patient and in a variety of health, social care, and educational settings.

Training to become a music therapist is available through an approved postgraduate course or via the art therapy level 7 apprenticeship route and typically take two years to complete (full time). Individuals usually have a music degree or an undergraduate degree or professional qualification in a relevant field. Once qualified they are required to register with the Health and Care Professions Council.

Why Register?

Great reasons to register with NHS Employers

  • A personalised website
    Manage your profile and select topics of interest to you
  • Access your dashboard
    Bookmark useful content to help you quickly find what you're looking for
  • Get involved
    Contribute to our Talking Points discussions, comment on and rate our webpages
  • Keep up to date
    Receive the latest newsletters and media summaries

Log In