Orthotic services

Orthotic services provide prescription insoles, braces, splints, callipers, footwear, spinal jackets and helmets which help people recover from or avoid injury, or live with lifelong conditions.

The correct supply and fitting of orthoses can help improve quality of life by reducing pain, keeping people mobile and independent and preventing more invasive and expensive interventions like surgery, amputation or the need for social care.

Previous studies have estimated that for every £1 spent on improving orthotics services, the NHS could potentially save as much as £4.

However, there remain significant variations in the quality of services and waiting times to access them across the country. Not getting things right first time for people who need orthoses is resulting in avoidable inequalities in access, worse outcomes, poor patient experience as well as poor value for money.

NHS England’s new guidance, Improving the Quality of Orthotics Services in England, aims to help local Clinical Commissioning Groups address this variation. It has been produced in cooperation with local commissioners, providers and patient groups, and draws on the findings of a recent review of services by NHS Quality Observatory triggered by concerns raised by Healthwatch England.

It sets out 10 recommended steps for commissioners to take towards better services for patients, including understanding local needs and preferences, delivering services in the community rather than out of hospitals, and encouraging joint working between health professionals to streamline the experience for patients and avoid unnecessary duplication.