The development of support workers in allied health care: a case study of podiatry assistants

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Webb, F, Farndon, L, Borthwick, A, Nancarrow, S & Vernon, W 2004, 'The development of support workers in allied health care: a case study of podiatry assistants', British Journal of Podiatry, vol. 7, no. 3, pp. 83-87.

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The aim of this study was to investigate why support workers were introduced, the development of the role and the impact this had on the UK podiatry profession. A documentary analysis was used to explore this subject over a 25 year time period, from 1977, when assistants were introduced, to 2002. All documents referring to podiatry assistants were studied and analysed using the framework approach. Analysis revealed that assistants were introduced to supplement a profession which was experiencing recruitment and retention problems at the time. Their training was given in-house as this was cost-effective and could accommodate local departmental needs. There was originally a large degree of opposition from the podiatry profession to support workers, which resulted in a strict control of the role. In the last decade however, there has been more support and acceptance for assistants, which has led to an increase in their scope of practice. This paper suggests a number of strategies, which should be considered in further developing the support worker role to allow them to be fully utilized in the health care arena.

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