Date Posted... Dec 3rd 2020

Old Truronian & NHS Head of Podiatry Offers Career Insights

Denise attended Truro School Sixth Form from 1994-1996 and is now Head of Podiatry and Orthotics Services at Torbay and South Devon NHS Trust. On Wednesday 2 November, students interested in a possible career within an allied health profession were offered the opportunity to find out more about podiatry and to learn of the journey and progression Denise has herself made.

She shared that whilst still at School, she was interested in pursuing physiotherapy at the University of Cardiff but did not achieve grades high enough. Dr Blake (TS 1987-2009), who was a biology teacher at the time, was able to chat with Denise about alternative options and a podiatrist course was decided.

“I was a failed physio and now so pleased I didn’t get the grades to undertake it because the wound side of podiatry is much more appealing to me than the MSK side which is more like physio. They refer patients to us to do more in-depth physio. Also, the fact that podiatrists can develop into podiatric surgeons and undertake all foot and ankle surgeries might appeal to someone who was thinking of medicine. It is such a varied career.”

Denise successfully applied to the University of Wales Institute, Cardiff where she qualified to begin as a basic grade Podiatrist at Torbay and South Devon NHS Trust. She became a senior 2 Podiatrist one-year later, a team leader in 2006 and now leads a team of 60 staff including podiatrists, orthotist, support staff and admin. This role also involves service improvement,  business plans and managing both services of podiatry and orthotics in a clinical and all patient facing role as Head of Podiatry.

Students learnt how Covid-19 has affected ways of working for her and her team, such as needing to screen all patients before any physical appointments and keeping them virtual as much as possible. But the restrictions have had a positive impact also: a previously paper-based recording system has now been developed into being electronic.

New opportunities have also been made available due to the necessary easing for other areas of the NHS. For example, her team are able to support colleagues in care homes now to attend patients who need swabbing, due to their skillset. Rules have eased in terms of being able to offer guided steroid injections to patients (previously radiologists were only able to do this), and they are able to prescribe more specific antibiotics instead of referring patients to their GP.

Whilst podiatry is still a vulnerable profession because it is relatively unknown, there are various of ways to access it, such as an apprenticeship route with Torbay and South Devon NHS Trust and the University of Plymouth.

Thank you to Denise for the time to support the Allied Healthcare careers talks. If you are an alumni find out about how you can support the careers programme here.