Recognising the key role played by operating department practitioners during the pandemic

Vital work of ODPs being marked

The significant role played by operating department practitioners (ODPs) during the pandemic, and their help in saving many thousands of lives, is being marked today (Friday).

On national ODP Day, the union and the College of Operating Department Practitioners is drawing the public’s attention to their roles, to provide greater awareness of the vital work they do.

Usually located in operating theatres, an ODP’s role is to provide complex care to patients at all stages of their operation, including when they receive anaesthetic and during their post-surgery recovery.

Although their job title is not as instantly familiar as that of some hospital staff, their work is intrinsic to patient care, says UNISON.

During the pandemic, many ODPs were moved to intensive care wards so their skills could be used to give the sickest patients a higher chance of survival. Often an ODP would be the last face a patient saw before they were placed on a ventilator.

Carlene Palmer is an ODP at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham but was transferred to the intensive therapy unit (ITU) at the start of the outbreak.

She said: “Although ODPs are very familiar with treating critically ill people, working in ITU was a massive challenge.

“It was stressful but rewarding. There was a real feeling of positivity because we were helping and could see people recover.

“Even now, when I walk past the ITU, I see staff I’ve worked and cried with during the pandemic. I just want to give them a hug, they’re like family.

“I needed counselling when I got back to my regular job in the operating theatre. I was still in ‘fight’ mode. I’m still trying to find the balance I had before the pandemic.”

Hannah Grimshaw qualified as an ODP last May and works for Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh Teaching Hospitals.

She said: “I was thrown into the deep end as the pandemic had just struck. It was a case of sink or swim.

“I did lots of intubations when I was moved to the intensive care unit (ICU) department. When beds in my hospital were full, I’d go with patients in the ambulance as they were transferred to other hospitals. It was really scary, being in such a small space with a fraction of the equipment I’d usually use and an unwell patient.

“A few of the patients were in the ICU for several months, and over that time we’d get to know them. It was really nice when patients would wake up after being on ventilators for ages.”

UNISON head of health Sara Gorton said: “These dedicated NHS staff gave their all during the pandemic, treating some of the country’s sickest patients in an environment they weren’t used to.

“Now they and their colleagues are shouldering the burden of the recovery, working night and day to clear the backlog of cancelled NHS operations.

“Their work is of immense value. That’s why on ODP day it’s vital their life-saving work is recognised. The best way to do that is for the government to reward them, along with all their NHS colleagues, with a proper pay rise soon.”

CODP president Hannah Abbott said: “This ODP day we celebrate the diversity of our fantastic profession. Throughout the pandemic ODPs have been on the frontline, demonstrating their diverse and adaptable skillset in a range of settings to care for acutely ill patients.

“Today we are raising awareness of our diverse, flexible, adaptable and highly skilled profession, who are united in our focus on delivering safe, effective care to patients.

“Every ODP, whether on the frontline, supporting essential education, or by supporting the government to protect the NHS has made a notable contribution to healthcare delivery during one of the most challenging periods in our history. And for this, on national ODP day, we thank you.”

Notes to editors:
– Photos of Carlene Palmer and Hannah Grimshaw are available on request.
– The College of Operating Department Practitioners is affiliated to UNISON. National ODP Day takes place on 14 May #ODPday #ovationforODPs
– UNISON is the UK’s largest union, with more than 1.3 million members providing public services – in education, local government, the NHS, police service and energy. They are employed in both the public, voluntary and private sectors.

Media contacts: 
Siobhan Cooley M: 07432 549183 E:
Liz Chinchen M: 07778 158175 E: