There are fourteen different professions within the Allied Health Professions. There are some that we probably have all come across – like physiotherapists and occupational therapists – but there are others such as orthoptists and prosthetists which aren’t as well known – but play an equally crucial role in our health and care system.

That’s why I welcomed the opportunity to shadow an orthoptist at Manchester Royal Eye Hospital as part of celebrations for the first ever national Allied Health Professions (AHPs) Day. As the Director of Workforce for the Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership, and an NHS HR Director for years before hand, I had a sound understanding of AHPs and the important role they play in enabling people and improving their health and wellbeing. But I admit my knowledge of orthoptists was limited. I did a quick bit of research before my shadowing session, but otherwise I went along with an open mind and a keen interest to learn more.

I was given a warm welcome when I arrived at Manchester Royal Eye Hospital from the orthoptist team in their multi-use staff room. Martha was my guide for the afternoon, one of the hospital’s award winners, who recently won their Rising Star Award as well as a national award. She gave me a detailed briefing about the role of an orthoptist: to assess, diagnose, treat and monitor a variety of eye disorders, and how their department works. I then was able to observe orthoptists Alison and Liz in clinic, helping people with issues such as double vision and squints. I got to see first-hand what makes the profession unique; in that people specialise in both caring for adults and children with a variety of sight problems and often multiple complex needs. I was also interested to learn that seven is the age at which our eyes are ‘set’ and that prisms are commonly used to correct double vision. I was really impressed with the variety of skills and level expertise required. Another thing that was really clear from my afternoon with the team at Manchester Royal Eye Hospital was how rewarding the profession is and how proud the team were to provide their service. They do a lot to promote the profession nationally too.

Shadowing the team at Manchester Royal Eye Hospital was a great way to improve my understanding of the orthoptist profession and I would strongly encourage others to consider shadowing to get a unique insight into how people work.

I shadowed the team in a hospital, but orthoptists can be found out in the community too, in rehabilitation centres and in both special and mainstream schools. Wherever they are based, I’ve learned that orthoptists are real experts in how our eyes move and work together and in understanding why and how neurological defects affect how we see.

Monday 15th October 2018 marked the first ever national Allied Health Professions Day. As the third largest professional group in the NHS, I’m really pleased that we now have a dedicated day when we can take a moment to recognise their contribution and say thank you for everything they do. From dietitians, to podiatrists, paramedics and art therapists, all fourteen professions are vital to improving our health and wellbeing.

Manchester Royal Eye Hospital is part of Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust.

You can find out more about Allied Health Professions here.

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