NHS Scotland Guide to Careers as Therapy Assistants

There are a number of assistant positions available within the Allied Health Professions. As an assistant, you might be interested in healthcare and enjoy dealing with people, these posts offer varied and rewarding work. In most cases, you will be working directly with patients, under the supervision of qualified staff. Arrangements vary, but you may initially be employed as a generic Healthcare Assistant or Therapy Assistant and then, with in-service training, have the chance to specialise in a particular therapy. You may also be taken on to specialise straight away working solely with one group of qualified professionals and become, for example, a Footcare or Podiatry Assistant.

Dietetic Assistant
Dietetic Assistants work with and are supervised by state registered Dieticians in either a community or hospital setting. This is not, however, a route to becoming a qualified Dietician.

The work will vary depending on the area in which you are employed but can involve assisting patients who require special diets to choose from the hospital menu; collecting information regarding patients’ intake and weight and liaising with the Dietician regarding patients’ progress.

Occupational Therapy Assistant (OTA)

Occupational Therapy Assistants assist qualified Occupational Therapists, with occupational therapy support workers, technical instructors and rehabilitation assistants being alternative job titles.

Most Occupational Therapy departments have one or two OTAs attached to them. It is usual for OTAs to carry out some treatment plans under supervision.

This can sometimes be a route to a part-time HNC in Occupational Therapy support. On completion, students can apply for entry into the second year of the undergraduate programme.

Physiotherapy Assistants
Physiotherapy Assistants help with tasks such as showing patients how to use mobility aids or working on exercises with them. This can sometimes be a route to an in-service degree course leading to qualification as a Physiotherapist.

Podiatry Assistant
Podiatry Assistants may also be known as chiropody assistants or foot care assistants. They give clinical support to qualified chiropodists/podiatrists and are involved in tasks such as cutting toenails and applying dressings. They also give advice on foot and nail care and undertake clerical tasks. They may have their own caseload, dealing with routine treatments and with patients who have already been assessed by the chiropodist/podiatrist.

Radiography Assistant
Radiography Assistants assist qualified diagnostic and therapeutic Radiographers. The work involves helping administer treatment to patients with a range of illnesses and processing film to help diagnose ill or injured patients. The work also involves clerical duties such as booking appointments.

Speech and Language Therapy Assistant

Speech and Language Therapy Assistants work in a supporting role alongside and under the direction of a qualified Speech and Language Therapist. The job involves working directly with clients, under the supervision of a Speech and Language Therapist, to develop their communication skills. Assistants also carry out clerical and administrative tasks, as required in the department.

Entry Requirements
There are no national minimum qualifications, and requirements vary between Trusts. However, you will be expected to have some Standard grades or similar qualifications or work experience.

Your training is likely to be mainly on the job, perhaps coupled with a day-release course and/or private study. You may have the chance to obtain a formal qualification, such as an SVQ level 2 or 3 in a relevant subject.

Career Prospects
In most cases, assistant posts are not yet a route to qualifying as an Allied Health Professional.

There are, however, some in-service courses open to Occupational Therapy Assistants with suitable qualifications, which on completion enable students to apply for access to undergraduate programmes at second year.

Further opportunities are being developed at present.

Further Information
British Dietetic Association (BDA)
The British Association/College of Occupational Therapists
Langside College
The Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists
The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy
Society of Radiographers
Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists (RCSLT)