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Until the 1980s the artificial limb (prosthetics) service was provided outside the NHS. This is in part because the service pre-dates the formation of the NHS in 1948. The first need for production of artificial limbs on a massive scale came after the first world war. Much of the service in the UK was provided by Hangar Orthopaedic, which is still one of the largest orthopaedic companies in the world.
Many of the users of artificial limbs at that time were of course ex-servicemen, and following the second world war the need for the service grew significantly.
In the 1980s the government commissioned a report into the prosthetic service, as it was considered inefficient. This report recommended the creation of a service market, with prosthetists starting their own companies to provide services to NHS Trusts. opcare is the only company currently providing prosthetic services that was started in a response to this report, and remains the only company owned and led by a prosthetist - our Chief Executive Mr Michael O'Byrne.
In a similar way the orthotics service was also provided outside the NHS. Orthotics were called 'appliances' and the service was provided by appliance fitters.
Into the 1980s the reasons people came to the service were changing. Instead of a majority of ex-servicemen, the services were faced with patients suffering from the effects of peripheral vascular disease and the effects of diabetes. In fact the main cause of amputation in 2012 is due to the complications of diabetes
In the 1990s the way prosthetists and orthotists were trained and qualified was changed completely. Prosthetists and orthotists are now trained through degree courses and are state registered by the Healthcare Professionals Council. This means they have to meet certain standards to maintain their
registration, as do physiotherapists, occupational therapists etc.
As CEO, Michael O'Byrne has constantly driven the services forward in terms of innovation. As a practising clinician he realised the time that could be saved by using CADCAM technologies and has driven the service in terms of innovation. He brought the Tracer system to the UK in the 1990s, and the company has its own information management systems, which were designed and developed in-house.
In 2004 Michael changed the name of the company to 'opcare' to reflect the growing need to look after the whole patient, and recognising the life-long nature of the service. All opcare staff were involved in writing the mission statement which reflects the aspirations of the organisation.
Our mission is to provide professional services in a caring and informative manner. We seek to continually develop our understanding of the needs of each individual user and apply our knowledge to optimise their quality of life.
Opcare is part of the Ability Technology Group