Operating Department Practitioner (ODP)

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Information provided is designed to support potential and existing operating department practitioners (ODPs) and those who support them in practice to deliver high quality perioperative care.   

This includes:  

Role of the Operating Department Practitioner
Operating Department Practitioner

ODPs play a valuable role within the theatre workforce, contributing to the delivery of safe, effective and person-centred care.  

They are highly skilled and essential members of the surgical team, providing care and support to patients during their operative procedures.  


The role of the ODP essentially covers three interconnected phases of perioperative care; the anaesthetic phase – assisting the anaesthetist for example by preparing equipment and medicines, the surgical phase – assisting the surgeon for example by providing the correct surgical instruments and the recovery phase – monitoring the patient’s recovery.  

ODPs are level 5 practitioners who:   

  • are registered practitioners consolidating pre-registration experience and preparing for a higher level of function 
  • have a comprehensive, specialised, factual and theoretical knowledge within the perioperative environment and an awareness of the boundaries of that knowledge.   
  • can use knowledge to solve problems creatively, make judgements which require analysis and interpretation, and actively contribute to service and self-development.   
  • may have responsibility for supervision of staff or training  

More information is available on the role of the ODP including career stories on NHS Careers. 

If you would like to learn about the history of the ODPs you can find out more in the paper published on Unison’s website The history of the College of Operating Practitioners and the ODP Profession 

Education and training

Currently to become an ODP it is necessary to study an approved pre-registration diploma over 2 years.

In Scotland, the diploma programme is delivered in partnership with the University of the West of Scotland.

Diploma of Higher Education (DipHE) Operating Department Practice

The DipHE in Operating Department Practice (ODP) is delivered by the University of West of Scotland (UWS) and accredited by the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC). The programme prepares safe, competent and caring ODPs who can deliver high quality care in all areas of perioperative practice including scrub, anaesthesia, surgery and post-anaesthesia person centred care.

This two-year full-time programme combines online theory and work-based learning through practice placement in a variety of perioperative settings.  As such, students will engage with online learning while practicing simultaneously as an ODP student, learning and developing clinical skills within their home health board.

On completion of the programme, students will be eligible to apply for registration with the HCPC as an Operating Department Practitioner.

The last cohort of the DipHE ODP programme commenced in 2023. This is due to a change to minimum education level for ODPs from diploma to degree level as detailed below.


Degree Level Training for ODPs

Following UK wide consultation, the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) agreed implementation of a change to the minimum education level required to register as an ODP from diploma to a degree. The change will come into place by September 2024. This means that no programme can recruit to anything other than a degree route from September 2024 for progression and registration as an ODP with HCPC.

What does this mean in practical terms? 

  • the DipHE in Operating Development Practice (ODP) delivered by the UWS will run for the last time in 2023
  • the change to minimum degree level training will affect future ODP trainees only
  • the HCPC will not require ODPs already registered with them to undertake additional training
  • a new degree level programme will be developed, ready for commencement in September 2024

The change from a 2-year diploma level programme to a 3-year degree level programme will result in no ODPs qualifying in 2026. This is detailed in the graphic below.

Operating Department Practitioner (OPD) Timeline: Diploma to Degree

This change has been widely communicated to workforce planners, educators, service and workforce leads to allow appropriate recruitment contingencies to be considered before and after 2026.  

More detailed information can be found on the HCPC website.

Career pathway
Operating Department Practitioners

Those who want to consider a role as an ODP, can get more information on how to become an ODP on NHS Careers.

Ongoing career development can happen in different ways. ODPs may choose to develop higher levels of responsibility, knowledge and skills and progress through the career levels within the Perioperative Career Development Framework, for example, progressing to be a senior ODP or remain at the same level but build on existing experience, knowledge and skills.

Career case studies

Trainee Operating Department Practitioner

Michael Wilson, NHS Lothian  is working in an established role as a healthcare support worker (HCSW) in theatres. Michael is building on this experience to further develop his career through training as an Operating Department Practitioner (ODP).

ODP Career and at distance learning 

Erika Marwick, NHS Orkney describes how remote learning has enabled her to achieve a health and social care diploma in her role as a health care support worker in theatre and subsequently a place on the Operating Department Practitioner programme.

ODP Career case study

Kelly Porteous, is an Operating Department Practitioner (ODP) and lecturer at the University of the West of Scotland (UWS). She describes the role of the ODP in anaesthetics, scrub and recovery. She goes on to discuss the Diploma of Higher Education in operating department practice.