RJAH and Keele develop pioneering degree

Photo caption: Orthotist Helena Marshall with Principle Orthotist Jane Dewsbury.

The Orthotics team at The Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital have been working with Keele University and Opcare to create a pioneering degree in Prosthetics and Orthotics.

Helena Marshall, Orthotist at the Oswestry-based hospital, began work on the project in December 2018 in collaboration with colleagues from the School of Health and Rehabilitation at Keele and Opcare, a supplier of prosthetic, orthotic and wheelchair services to the NHS.

The development process of the course is scheduled to run until 2021 – it’s then hoped the first intake of students will start in the 2021/22 academic year.

The bespoke project aims to address the national shortage of Orthotists across the UK.

The department of Orthotics at RJAH is one of the largest in-house Orthotics departments in the UK and helps to treat and rehabilitate patients by providing orthoses, braces and specialist footwear to help movement, correct deformity and relieve discomfort.

Helena has been seconded one day a week to work on the project.
She said: “There are currently around 400 Orthotists in the UK and the British Healthcare Trades Association predict there needs to be a workforce increase of approximately 50% to meet the current and future demand.

“This innovative course is an exciting opportunity for RJAH to be involved in the expansion and further development in the field of Orthotics.
“We’re still in the stages of developing the course, but the content will be a mix of theory, practical work and clinical placements, both in the NHS and the private sector.”

There are currently only two UK institutes that provide degrees in Prosthetics and Orthotics.

This unique project has involved consultation with the British Association of Prosthetists and Orthotists and the International Society for Prosthetics and Orthotics.

Jane Dewsbury, Principle Orthotist, said: “We are delighted to be working in partnership with Keele University to lead Orthotics into a new era.

“Being an Orthotist is such a rewarding career which involves a unique mix of patient contact, engineering and creativity.”

Professor Pauline Walsh, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Health and Wellbeing) and Executive Dean of the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences at Keele University, said: "We are delighted to develop this pioneering course that will provide an opportunity to address the national shortage of Orthotist and Prosthetic professionals in the UK.

“Our School of Health and Rehabilitation enjoy a positive partnership with RJAH, and is excited about this new development and the positive impact it will have for patients.”