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This guide to Allied Health is supported by the University of Buckingham.

What is Allied Health?

Allied Health professionals (AHPs) play a vital role in treating and improving the lives of patients. They work across a range of sectors – from emergency response and diagnosis to mental and physical rehabilitation. They often work in partnership with other health and social care professionals, and in settings ranging from hospitals to patients’ homes.

As an AHP, you will support patients to help them overcome obstacles – both physically and mentally. This could include helping someone to walk again, to undergo radiotherapy for cancer, or to overcome a speech disorder.

Who are Allied Health professionals?

There are 15 different Allied Health professions, including:

  • Podiatrist
  • Dietitian
  • Occupational Therapist
  • Physiotherapist
  • Osteopath
  • Prosthetist and Orthotist
  • Diagnostic Radiographer
  • Therapeutic Radiographer
  • Paramedic
  • Operating Department Practitioner
  • Speech and Language Therapist
  • Orthoptist
  • Art Therapist
  • Drama Therapist
  • Music Therapist

Allied Health professionals form the third largest clinical workforce in the NHS and are professionally autonomous practitioners educated to at least degree level standard. They focus on the prevention of ill health alongside improving health and wellbeing to help people live full and active lives. AHPs are regulated by the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC), with Osteopaths regulated by the General Osteopathic Council (GOsC).

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What is the difference between Medicine and Allied Health?

Allied Health is the delivery of health-related services which are distinct from Medicine, Nursing, Dentistry and Pharmacy.

The term Allied Health encompasses a wide variety of roles. Some of these roles involve working with Doctors to diagnose and treat illnesses or injuries, while others are more independent and autonomous.

AHPs provide system-wide care: they are involved in assessing, treating, diagnosing and discharging patients across health, social care, housing, education, early years, schools, the criminal justice system, independent and voluntary sectors. By adopting a holistic approach to health and care, AHPs can support and manage people’s care from birth to end of life.

Getting into Medicine is becoming more and more competitive each year. There are now 10,000 more people applying to study Medicine than there were five years ago. Applying for an Allied Health degree might still be competitive, but the application process is more dependent on your A-Levels and your Personal Statement – whereas Medicine requires you to also sit the UCAT or the BMAT and do interviews.

It’s worth remembering that being a Doctor isn’t the be-all and end-all of working in healthcare. If you do your research into Allied Health professions, you might find something just as appealing (or even more appealing) as Medicine.

Why should I consider a career in Allied Health?

Allied Health professions are emotionally rewarding, because you’ll play a crucial role in the care and treatment of patients. You will get the satisfaction of using your expertise to deliver high quality care and to help people live their lives as fully as possible.

You’ll also have the opportunity to progress with ongoing training, moving to more senior positions with a higher pay grade. In many roles, there is flexibility to specialise in an area that interests you. For example, a physiotherapist might decide to specialise in treating patients with respiratory and breathing problems, or a podiatrist might choose to focus on seeing patients with specific sports related injuries.

Many students on Allied Health degrees are eligible for financial support from the NHS Learning Support Fund. This includes a training grant of £5,000 per year and it doesn’t need to be paid back. There is additional funding of £1,000 for students on some of the Allied Health programmes where there is a shortage of specialist staff.

How do I become an Allied Health professional?

To become an AHP, you will need a relevant degree or postgraduate course approved by the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC), or the General Osteopathic Council (GOsC) for osteopaths. You can also train for some Allied Health roles through a degree apprenticeship, which involves working and studying at the same time.

Entry requirements for Allied Health degrees vary depending on the university and the course. You will typically need to have at least two (usually three) A-Levels or equivalent qualifications at Level 3, plus supporting GCSEs. Some courses might mention specific A-Level subjects that you need to have, e.g. a science subject.

In addition to meeting the grade requirements for university, you’ll need a strong Personal Statement which shows you are interested in the degree and the career that it leads to. If you have some relevant work experience, this will also help your application.

Your training will last 2-5 years depending on the course. It will typically combine university study with practical experience.

After you have completed your degree, you must register with the HCPC (or GOsC for osteopaths) to practise as an Allied Health professional. If it’s relevant to your career, you can also join professional bodies such as the Royal College of Occupational Therapists or the Institute of Osteopathy.

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