Operating department practitioners (ODPs) are allied health professionals who provide care to patients through their anaesthetics, surgery and recovery

As an operating department practitioner, you'll work as part of the perioperative team and will be responsible for the care of patients in a range of specialities. Based in operating theatres, you'll deliver care to patients throughout the whole of their perioperative journey - in anaesthetics, surgery, recovery, or emergency settings.

Working in the surgery team, you'll ensure the operating theatre is prepared and will serve as a link between the surgical team and other teams in the hospital.

ODPs are also known as theatre practitioners.

Types of ODP

ODPs work in three areas: anaesthetics, surgery and recovery. You may cover all three areas in your work or specialise.

  • Anaesthetics - You'll assist the anaesthetist by preparing the clinical area, including specialist equipment such as anaesthetic machines and intravenous devices. You'll also prepare the patient for surgery and care for them during their procedure.
  • Surgery - You'll form part of the operative team as either a circulator or scrub practitioner assisting the surgical team, preparing all instruments and equipment required.
  • Recovery - This is the final stage of the patients' perioperative journey and is managed in a Post Anaesthetic Care Unit (PACU). During this stage, you'll monitor the patient's physiological parameters and provide appropriate interventions and treatment until they have recovered from the effects of the anaesthesia and/or surgery and are stable and ready to return to the ward environment.

At every stage, ODPs act as the patient's advocate providing holistic care.


As an ODP, you may need to:

  • conduct pre-operative assessments of the patient prior to their admission to the department
  • complete detailed diagnostic checks of the anaesthetic machines, ensuring they meet and adhere to all safety requirements, and that they are fully operational
  • ensure availability of medical gases, breathing apparatus and ventilatory equipment ready for surgery
  • ensure controlled and emergency medications are accessible prior to the induction of anaesthesia
  • support the anaesthetist to ensure patient safety during anaesthesia
  • assist the surgeon before and during the operation
  • provide the surgeon with appropriate equipment for each procedure
  • ensure all surgical instruments are sterilised to hospital standards
  • make professional decisions to ensure the patient receives the best care before, during and after surgery
  • demonstrate confidence, compassion, competence and effective judgement; taking responsibility for your decisions
  • act as a patient advocate, supporting patients by communicating with appropriate healthcare providers so they get the information they need to make decisions about their health care
  • adhere to legal and ethical safety checks.


  • The NHS Agenda for Change pay structure has clearly defined pay bands for ODP salaries. For newly qualified ODPs this ranges between £28,407 and £34,581 - an NHS Band 5 salary.
  • Senior/experienced ODPs and team leaders are usually employed at Band 6 or 7 earning between £35,392 to £50,056 a year. ODPs earn around £45,000 in the private sector.
  • Locum or agency ODPs normally get paid a higher hourly rate than staff ODPs. This can vary between £34 to £50 per hour. For the right person with plenty of experience, it can be a good and flexible career choice. However, the higher hourly rate must be balanced against not receiving benefits such as holiday and sick pay. In addition, hours can't always be guaranteed.

As an NHS employee, you'll have access to the pension scheme and health service discounts, as well as 27 days of annual leave plus bank holidays.

Income data from NHS Agenda for Change. Figures are intended as a guide only.

Working hours

Working hours vary with every organisation. Working patterns might include evenings, nights, and or weekends. There may also be an on-call rota for emergencies. Some ODPs work longer days, consolidating their hours in order to do them over four or even three days a week.

Part time and or job share and/or locum work is also possible.

What to expect

  • You'll need to be confident in checking, handling, and operating large pieces of machinery such as ventilatory equipment and breathing apparatus.
  • The work can be stressful, particularly if you're working with trauma patients. It's not unusual to be in theatre for long periods of time, so good levels of patience and concentration are needed.
  • During operations, ODPs might wear masks, sterile gowns, and gloves all of which will be provided for you.
  • You'll work within a multidisciplinary team, comprising nurses, surgeons, radiologists, anaesthetists, other ODPs and other medical and healthcare staff.
  • Jobs are available throughout the UK and some selected countries around the world (variations of title occur but being an ODP provides access to roles). You'll typically work in operating theatres, and specialist units such as accident and emergency (A&E) and intensive care, plus other areas where your skills are required.


Currently there is a shortage of ODPs in the UK.

To work as an operating department practitioner in the UK, you need to register with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) before you can start practising. To do this, you'll need to have completed an approved HCPC approved programme.

The three-year BSc Operating Department Practice degree is the more common standard for entry into the profession and completion of this enables you to move on to study a Masters degree.

You'll usually need a minimum of five GCSEs at grades 4-9/A-C or equivalent plus A-level or equivalent qualifications. These will vary depending on the university so check with the universities you are considering applying to.

Once you've completed your degree, you need to register with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) before you can start practising. The other option is to apply through the NHS degree apprenticeship or the government degree apprenticeship page.

Financial support is available through the NHS Learning Support Fund (NHS LSF), which offers eligible students additional support while studying for their degree.


You will need to be:

  • an excellent communicator who is able to accurately relay relevant information to other members within your multidisciplinary team
  • pro-active and able to anticipate care requirements
  • logical and systematic in your approach
  • able to remain calm under pressure, particularly when exposed to a range of traumatic injuries
  • confident and able to reflect and learn from your own work and have a commitment to continuing professional development (CPD).

Work experience

Getting work experience as an operating department practitioner will not be possible as only those involved in the operation are able to attend the procedure.

However, having some type of health care experience will be useful to ensure this is an area of work you will be suited to. The NHS Getting experience guide provides useful information about arranging work experience opportunities within healthcare.

Volunteering with the NHS or St John Ambulance is useful, as is experience working as a healthcare assistant.

In addition to this, it might be helpful to talk to someone within the profession. LinkedIn can be a valuable tool for networking as you can search for people currently in the job and seek to make links to find out more about the role.

Find out more about the different kinds of work experience and internships that are available.


The NHS is the main employer of ODPs, however there is the opportunity to work in the private sector as well.

Look for job vacancies at:

Specialist recruitment agencies such as Mayday Healthcare, Pulse and Circle Health Group advertise jobs.

Individual trusts and hospitals advertise vacancies on their websites and sometimes in printed bulletins.

Professional development

Once you've qualified through the NHS, you'll normally have an annual continuing professional development (CPD) review, where you'll be given the opportunity to discuss your career aspirations and given the support to plan how to achieve them.

There are excellent career progression opportunities for ODPs to go into many different roles, including management, education, or advanced clinical roles such as surgical care practitioner, anaesthesia associate, advanced critical care practitioner or physician's assistant.

Additional postgraduate qualifications will be looked upon positively. If you wish to integrate more formal study into your work, you can take a certificate, diploma and/or Masters courses. Search postgraduate courses in anaesthetics.

Career prospects

With experience, you may be able to progress to the position of team leader or senior ODP, with the responsibility of managing an operating theatre unit.

You could also move into one of three areas:

  • education
  • research
  • training.

Some qualified and experienced ODPs take further approved training run by the Royal College of Surgeons enabling progression to the role of a surgical care practitioner. In which you’d be responsible for assisting in some surgical procedures under the supervision of a consultant surgeon.

With localised training within NHS trusts, operating department practitioners can go on to expand on their roles outside the traditional theatre setting. For example, by moving into specialist roles within a critical care settings.

ODPs with a minimum of three years' clinical experience and a degree level qualification, can apply for training to become an anaesthesia associate. Upon successful completion of an Anaesthesia Associate Postgraduate Diploma, practitioners are invited to become an Affiliate of the Royal College of Anaesthetists.

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