I am often asked about Chiropody and Podiatry and the differences between the two titles…well… take a look at this info. This is what you should need to know. The advice outlined here applies across all health care professionals that you see. Check they are regulated and qualified to the level that you require.
What’s the difference between a Chiropodist and a Podiatrist?
In the UK, Podiatry is simply the new name for Chiropody. The name was changed to Podiatry in 1993 as it has become the internationally recognised name for a foot specialist.
Podiatry as a profession is constantly changing and developing. Students complete a 3 or 4 year full time degree course and the requirement of the HCPC (Health and Care Professions Council). to undertake CPD (continued professional development) each year ensures Podiatrists are competent to treat a vast array of foot and lower limb problems.
General skin and Nail Care
The most commonly performed treatment involves skin and nail care. They remove callus and corns, improve nail condition and provide expert advice on some dermatological problems such as fungal infections of the skin and nail, varicose, eczema and many others.
Nail and Foot Surgery
A Podiatrist with the relevant certificate is able to perform nail surgery under local anaesthetic however you need to see a Podiatric surgeon for foot surgery. An increasing amount of foot surgery is being performed by specially trained Podiatrists (Podiatric surgeons), usually on a day care basis under local anaesthetic. Podiatric surgeons have done at least 7 years of post-graduate training to become a specialist surgeon.
Another service commonly provided by Podiatrists involves an analysis of the way you walk, providing an insight into joint alignment, muscular tightness and ranges of joint motion. Using different theories your podiatrist will be able to identify shortcomings in your gait and offer a range of solutions to your injury. These may vary from exercises to prescribing bespoke orthotics.
These are either off the shelf or custom made insoles to go into your footwear that aim to reduce the symptoms you are experiencing. Often these are used to offer a better range of motion in your foot joints and for controlling excessive pronation, commonly known as flat feet or fallen arches, but they can be useful for many other conditions.
Podiatrists with a special interest in Sports injuries often work with or link with local Physiotherapists. A sports Podiatrist’s understanding and intricate knowledge of lower limb function and orthotic treatments mean they are highly qualified in diagnosing and treating many lower limb sports injuries.
This deals with the diagnosis and treatment of lower limb disorders in children many of which are biomechanical in nature.
High risk patient care:
Those patients with diabetes, arthritis, neurological or vascular conditions tend to have ‘high risk’ feet and should see a Podiatrist regularly.
HCPC registration, means registration with the Health and Care Professions Council. This is the regulatory board for all Allied Health Professions. In 2003 the HCPC replaced the old Council for Professions Supplementary to Medicine (CPSM). Registration with the new HCPC ensures the practitioner meets certain minimum standards of education. Some Podiatrists followed ‘grandparenting’ to gain HCPC registration. Essentially this means that someone who has completed less than an approved 3 year course (often as little as a few weeks of formal training) but who had been working privately as an unregistered Podiatrist for at least three years had a chance to apply to become registered and would then be regulated if they met the HCPC competency requirements.
How can I be sure who’s who?
It is up to the patient to ask and find out the level of training of the practitioner they are using. Most practitioners will have their certificates on the wall or on display somewhere for patients to see. If you cannot see these, you could simply ask if they are a HCPC registered Podiatrist and if they have a degree or 3 year diploma in podiatry (BSc or DPodM). If they insist they are ‘Fully Qualified’ but won’t be specific, it could mean they are not.
What is a Foot Health Practitioner?
Many of those practitioners previously using the title Chiropodist who have not gained HCPC registration have now adopted the title ‘Foot Health Practitioner’. Although they will have insurance to cover their skills, this title is not protected in law which does not guarantee a particular level of training. Typically these training courses are between 2 and 6 weeks long after which students will call themselves a Foot Health or Foot Care Practitioner. It goes without saying that a Foot Health Practitioner course is not to be confused or compared to the 3 or 4 years of full time training needed to become a Podiatrist, however, there will be excellent and experienced Foot Health Practitioners out there who may have all of the skills needed to meet your footcare requirements.
Does it matter who I see?
This could depend on the severity of the problem you have. If your general health is less than perfect it might be that your feet are at a higher risk of problems than you realise, in this case you would be well advised to seek a consultation with the most highly trained Podiatrist possible. If your feet are affected by a general condition such as diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, blood circulation problems, conditions that have altered the way you walk such as strokes or MS or if you are on high risk medication such as Warfarin you should certainly demand a good level of general medical knowledge from a highly trained Podiatrist.
If you are in good health but simply can no longer reach your feet to care for yourself, and only have minor needs such as nail cutting and skin care, then seeing a qualified Podiatrist may not be as critical.
Degree level certificates aren’t everything though; you should feel confident that the Podiatrist or Foot Health Practitioner you decide to see understands the problem you have and can offer you effective treatments. If you feel unsure about the practitioner, try another.
What do the letters that Podiatrists use mean?
DPodM or BSc Podiatry – the Podiatrist has completed a full training course in podiatry at an approved institution. Originally this course was a diploma in podiatric medicine – DPodM but was later changed to a degree course – BSc.
SRCh – State Registered Chiropodist. As of July the 9th 2003 this title is no longer relevant. The current form of registration with the state is given by the new Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC).
HCPC – Registered with the Health Care and Professions Council.
MChS or FChS – This means that the Podiatrist is a member or fellow of The Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists. A practising member of this society is assured of having professional indemnity insurance cover.
Some Podiatrists may have other letters after their name that signify further qualifications, for example F.C.Pod(S) for surgery but the above letters are important to know when seeking treatment for the majority of ailments.
Remember: If you have a foot related problem the best person to see is a Podiatrist. You do not need a referral from your GP to seek a private consultation from a Podiatrist. If your GP needs to be involved your Podiatrist should contact them after your initial assessment.
Emma Price – Director and Senior Podiatrist – Supafoot Cheltenham Ltd.
(BSc (Hons), BSc Podiatry (Hons), MChS, HCPC registered)