Operating department practitioner

Operating department practitioners (ODPs) are a type of health care provider involved with the overall planning and delivery of perioperative care. They are mainly employed in surgical operating departments but can also be found in other clinical areas, including emergency departments, intensive care units (ICUs), and ambulance services. "Operating department practitioner" is a protected title in the United Kingdom, and the profession has been regulated since 2004 by the UK's Health Professions Council (HPC) now the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC).[1] As of February 2017 there are 13,018 registered ODPs in the UK.[1] ODPs work as members of multi-disciplinary teams that include doctors, nurses, and support workers.


The Association of Operating Department Practitioners operated a voluntary register and campaigned through the nineties for formal regulation.[2] By 1999 there were around 8,000 ODPs across the UK.[2]

In 2004 the regulation of ODPs was taken over by the UK's Health Professions Council, which changed its name in 2012 to Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) to reflect the evolution of the range of its responsibilities.[1] In July 2004, the HPC published standards of proficiency for ODP, later revised in November 2008.[3]

ODPs are now classified as allied health professionals in England as of April 2017.[4]


ODPs provide care for patients during the anaesthesia (pre-operative), surgical (intra-operative), and recovery (post-operative) phases.[5]

Anaesthetic stage

ODPs prepare the drugs and equipment needed for the patient to undergo anaesthesia. This involves preparing and checking ventilation equipment, anaesthetic machines, intravenous drugs and fluids, and devices to facilitate breathing (such as laryngeal mask airways and endotracheal tubes). ODPs must also be able to assist anaesthetists in emergency situations.[6] ODPs conduct pre-surgery checklists to ensure that the right patient is receiving the right treatment and has given informed consent. These last "barrier" checks can sometimes discover important information that no one else has picked up on, such as allergies and fasting status. ODPs stay with the patient throughout their surgical intervention and help to maintain the "triad of anaesthesia":

  • Analgesia (pain control with opioid and non-opioid drugs)
  • Muscle relaxation (to minimise patient movement during surgery and/or facilitate ventilation)
  • Hypnosis (drug-induced sleep)

ODPs work closely with anaesthetists to maintain the patient's airway. In some hospitals, they are members of cardiac arrest teams.

In some NHS Trusts, ODPs are used during emergency inter-hospital transfers, mainly to neurosurgical hospitals, decompression chambers, and intensive care units. They prepare and facilitate transfers, arranging drugs, equipment, and emergency airway apparatus. Transfer teams usually consist of an anaesthetist, an ODP, and two paramedics.

Surgical stage

ODPs prepare sterile instruments and equipment and work with the surgeon, passing the instruments within the sterile area.

Specially trained ODPs can also be the first assistant to the surgeon. Swabs and instruments are all accounted for by the ODP to check that nothing has been left inside the patient.

ODPs may sometimes work in a circulating role during the surgical stage of a patient's care. In this role, they give extra materials to the sterilised person, help position the patient on the operating table, and plan ahead to supply what the surgical team may need.[7] They may also set up extra equipment and act as a link between the surgical team and the rest of the hospital.

Recovery stage

When the operation has finished, the patient is taken to the recovery unit, where the ODP will check on him or her, providing airway management if needed and monitoring the patient's physiological signs. The ODP will then give treatment such as the administration of prescribed drugs or other procedures, allowing the patient to fully recover from the effects of anaesthesia. The ODP will also check if the patient needs help from a physician or can be safely discharged to the ward.


In the UK, to work as an ODP, a person requires to hold a Diploma of Higher Education (DipHE) or degree in Operating Department Practice.[8] A DipHE usually takes two years to complete. By 2010 there were 27 universities and colleges in the UK offering a qualification in operating department practice.[9]

Professional organizations

The HCPC recognises two professional bodies for ODPs:[1]

  • The College of Operating Department Practitioners (CODP),[10] previously known as the Association of Operating Department Practitioners (AODP)
  • The Association for Perioperative Practice (AfPP), formerly the National Association of Theatre Nurses.[11]

See also


  1. "About regulation: Professions: Operating department practitioners". Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC). Retrieved 24 March 2017.
  2. Dobson, Roger (24 July 1999). "UK operating theatre practitioners seek regulation". The BMJ. 319 (7204): 214. doi:10.1136/bmj.319.7204.214e. PMC 1174608.
  3. "Standards of proficiency: Operating department practitioners" (PDF). Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC). Retrieved 25 September 2016.
  4. "Chief Allied Health Professions Officer extends her remit to two additional professions" (Press release). NHS England. 3 April 2017. Retrieved 14 October 2017.
  5. "Operating department practitioner". www.healthcareers.nhs.uk. 26 September 2016.
  6. "Clinical Quality, Standards and Safety: Clinical Quality FAQs". Royal College of Anaesthetists. Retrieved 26 September 2016.
  7. "Job profiles: Operating department practitioner". nationalcareersservice.direct.gov.uk. Retrieved 25 September 2016.
  8. "The Anaesthesia Team" (PDF). Association of Anaesthetists of Great Britain and Ireland (AAGBI). May 2010. p. 11. Retrieved 26 September 2016.
  9. "College of Operating Department Practitioners". www.unison.org.uk. Retrieved 26 September 2016.
  10. "About AfPP". afpp.org.uk. Association for Perioperative Practice (AfPP). Retrieved 26 September 2016.
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