NHS Careers > Explore by career > Wider healthcare team > Careers in the wider healthcare team > Clinical support staff > Assistant practitioner

Assistant practitioner

Assistant practitioners are at level 4 of the NHS Career Framework. They work in a broad range of areas, primarily but not exclusively, with patient contact.

Examples of assistant practitioner level job titles include:

  • occupational therapy assistant
  • diabetes team assistant
  • expert patient coordinator
  • assistant theatre practitioner
  • primary care worker in mental health
  • assistant practitioner (falls).

Assistant practitioners work in a variety of clinical areas including:

  • stroke
  • nuclear medicine
  • district nursing
  • podiatry
  • radiography.

Assistant practitioner - stroke

  • working in a multi-disciplinary team, assisting in the identification of stroke patients within hospital and community settings and supporting the maintenance of the stroke register
  • assisting with the smooth transfer of patients between care settings
  • actively participating in the effective discharge of patients and follow-up plans
  • recording electrocardiogram (ECG) tests
  • undertaking venepuncture, urine analysis, collection and sending of samples and swabs for culture, ankle brachial pressure measurements, blood capillary glucose monitoring, bladder scanning, blood pressure, heart rate and oxygen saturation monitoring
  • maintaining computer records.

Assistant practitioner - nuclear medicine

  • undertaking a range of routine whole body, dynamic and tomographic diagnostic imaging procedures using a gamma camera
  • positioning the patient appropriately, selecting appropriate scan protocols and acquiring images
  • preparing standard image output displays
  • assisting senior staff in the labelling, checking and administration of radiopharmaceuticals
  • communicating information to patients and obtaining relevant clinical history prior to the commencement of the imaging procedure
  • performing routine quality control and cleaning of equipment
  • assisting in the management of radioactive waste.

Assistant practitioner - district nursing

  • working as part of a district nursing team providing health promotion and health education to adults and their families
  • assisting in identifying health needs of patients and partcipating in the delivery and evaluation of care provided under the indirect supervision of a registered nurse
  • running health education and health promotion programmes, including smoking cessation, diet, exercise and healthy lifestyle
  • maintaining accurate, clear and concise records and communicating information to members of the team as necessary
  • maintaining and ordering stocks of equipment
  • providing a safe environment for the management of patients and protection of staff and visitors.

Assistant practitioner - podiatry

  • working within a podiatry service, providing basic foot care after an assessment by a registered podiatrist and undertaking delegated clerical duties
  • preparing environments and resources, during and after clinical activities, maintaining a safe and clean environment
  • assessing the condition and risk status of the feet of an individual with diabetes and discussing the results of the examination with the individual and/or carer and explain any specific problems(s), which may require further tests or treatment and implement these referrals
  • applying dressings, providing foot health education, foot wear and hygiene advice.

Assistant practitioner - radiography

  • performing general radiographic duties, under the supervision of a qualified radiographer
  • undertaking all practical aspects of radiography, including referring to exposure charts
  • positioning patients to obtain standard images, film type selection, processing film images and assessing all images with a qualified radiographer to ensure they reach the required standard
  • obtaining images of an immobile or uncooperative patient
  • undertaking fluorography examinations such as Barium Enemas and meals, under the instruction of a radiologist or radiographer
  • working with seriously ill patients and those at the end of their lives, communicating with their relatives and carers
  • using highly complex x-ray equipment in a way that will not cause harm to self or others.
  • giving patients instructions regarding changes prior to investigation and assist them to change if necessary
  • communicating with patients regarding appointments, time delays and queries, and liase with professional staff as necessary

Working as part of a team will be common in most practitioner roles.

Working in a range of settings

Assistant practitioners work in a range of locations, including in the community (such as clinics, patients' own homes, G.P. surgeries) and in hospitals (such as in wards, pathology laboratories, accident and emergency departments, medical physics departments etc).

Depending upon the role and the nature of the work, assistant practitioners may be expected to work shifts.

Entry requirements

Entry requirements will vary, depending on the post and level of responsibility.

For some posts, assistant practitioners may need a level 3 vocational qualification and care experience. For others, they may need a BTEC higher diploma or foundation degree in a subject relevant to their area of work (e.g. science or health and social care). Details of the exact requirements will appear in the person specification for each job vacancy, as advertised on the NHS Jobs website.

It may be a requirement to have experience of working with people - typically in a healthcare setting - and applicants who have worked as healthcare assistants or support workers, will often have developed the skills and attributes to apply for assistant or trainee assistant practitioner posts.

Some posts will also require a driving licence.

Training

Assistant practitioners will typically study towards a foundation degree, or BTEC higher national diploma level qualification, on a part-time basis whilst working.

See also the section on career propsects below.

Financial support

Employers may provide support to those working towards a qualification, but this should be clarified with the employer directly.

Pay for assistant practitioners

Assistant practitioners will normally be paid on band 4 of the Agenda for Change pay system but this will be dependent on the actual content of the job role. Trainee assistant practitioner posts will normally be paid on band 3. For actual pay rates, click here.

Details of pay for individual job vacancies appear in job advertisements on the NHS Jobs website.

Career prospects

Staff can progress through the levels of the NHS Career Framework by developing skills and competences through learning and development. Find out more about the career framework here.

Assistant practitioners may be given the opportunity to progress onto further training, such as secondment onto a pre-registration programme, with support from their employing NHS organisation. 

Seconded assistant practitioners would usually study part-time for a programme in occupational therapy, one of the branches of nursing (adult, children's, mental health or learning disability), physiotherapy, radiography, speech and language therapy or podiatry.

Successful completion of pre-registration training provides the opportunity for movement up through the Career Framework and Agenda for Change pay scales. For example, newly qualified nurses commence on band 5 of Agenda for Change.

Alternatively, assistant practitioners not wanting to develop their career, may be able to gain additional experience and responsibility by broadening their existing role and remain at band 4 of the Career Framework.

Assistant practitioners will be expected to maintain their knowledge and skills through continuous professional development (CPD). This might involve attending courses or seminars, for example.

Further information

Individual professional bodies may have information about the role of assistant practitioners. See below for professional body contact information for each career area in the NHS.