Chiropodist vs Podiatrist vs Foot Health Practitioner
Updated: Feb 28, 2019
Confused? Let me try and clear things up a little...
Lots of people ask what the difference is between a Chiropodist and a Podiatrist, the short answer is, nothing. Chiropodist/Podiatrist is a dual title held by anyone who has completed a BSc degree in Podiatry in the UK since the 90's. Our training is rigorous, and involves 3 years of theory and practical education, with 1000 hours hands-on training in both NHS and private clinical settings. We also complete ongoing CPD (continuous professional development). We can choose to use either title for work, sometimes people believe Podiatrists are trained to a higher level but this is not true. We are Allied Health Professionals, at the same level as a Physiotherapist or Occupational therapist, for example. I have chosen to use 'Chiropody' in my business title as I tend to find people recognise the term more and associate it with the type of routine care I currently offer. You will find the NHS almost always uses 'Podiatrist', as within the medical profession this is more widely used and recognised, and is in line with the rest of the world.
Podiatrists/Chiropodists are practitioners specialising in the treatment of foot problems. We have diagnostic power, can treat high-risk and diabetic feet, check for circulatory and neurological problems, manage wounds, remove toenails under local anaesthetic, issue some prescription-only medicines and carry out biomechanical assessments and issue orthotics (insoles) accordingly. The title Chiropodist/Podiatrist is protected by law and it is an offence to use it if unqualified. You should also check your practitioner is HCPC registered and holds insurance (as I am/do!).
Foot Health Practitioners (FHPs) are trained to care for foot problems such as toenail care, corns and calluses. They can also treat diabetic feet safely and are aware of aseptic technique (clean working) and when to refer-on for more serious foot problems. If you compared a Chiropodist/Podiatrist and Foot Health Practitioner in their clinic, you would probably notice very few differences. The key difference would seem to be our training. There are some good quality FHP courses available, and some not so rigorous. As the title 'Foot Health Practitioner' is not protected, technically anyone could use it. Training is shorter, with generally 12 months theory (possibly distance learning), with anything from 5 days to 2 weeks of practical experience before qualifying. FHPs cannot work within the NHS. You will see our advertising looks very similar, perhaps using 'foot care clinic' or 'foot health professional'. Some clinics may offer 'chiropody/podiatry services carried out by a foot health professional', this is a bit of a grey area as they are not claiming to be a Chiropodist/Podiatrist, but it may be confusing unless you know what to look for.
Ultimately, it is up to you who you choose to see. If you see a HCPC registered Podiatrist/Chiropodist you can be assured they have completed an accredited course, have a minimum 3 years experience and adhere to the HCPC standards. Or, a foot health professional may be completely suitable for your needs, and may be a little cheaper (though I have met FHPs who charge much more than me!). I hope this piece has been helpful in clearing up some common misconceptions.