Occupational Therapists in primary care
Occupational therapists assess the needs of people to do what they need and want to do (occupations). They develop plans with patients, so they can re-engage in everyday life, despite their health and social difficulties.
Through intervening early and taking a collaborative approach occupational therapists are able to address what matters to people. This can minimise crisis situations, prevent further deterioration and promote independence and social inclusion.
Occupational therapists help GPs to support patients who:
- are frail, with complex needs
- live with chronic physical or mental health conditions
- manage anxiety or depression
- require advice to return or remain in work
- need rehabilitation so they can continue with previous occupations (activities of daily living).
You can find out more in this leaflet published by The Royal College of Occupational Therapists.
As part of the work to maximise the contribution of occupational therapists within primary care, a pilot that uses the skills of occupational therapists to support people to remain in, return to, or obtain work. The trial is testing solutions which could help working-age people with disabilities and health conditions remain in work. Funded by the ‘Work and Health Challenge Fund’ and project managed by The Royal College of Occupational Therapists, the vocational clinics being trialled demonstrate the contribution that occupational therapists can make to the wider GP team.
The pilot was initiated as a result of an innovative occupational therapy emerging placements pilot run by an occupational therapy lecturer from Southampton University. One of the GP practices involved in the pilot had been impressed by the wide skill base demonstrated by an occupational therapy student on placement at the surgery via Southampton University and the local HEE training hub. This made them a natural choice when deciding where to trial the new vocational clinics which will conclude in 2020.
Fran Hill, one of the occupational therapists involved in the trial explains more:
“Myself and two occupational therapy colleagues are based across three sites of a GP practice in Southampton where we run Occupational Therapy Led Vocational Clinics to help people with mental health and/or musculoskeletal problems remain in work. We are trialling the use of the Allied Health Professions Advisory Fitness for Work Report (AHP Fit Note).
“We offer the service in different ways either by telephone, face to face or using online platforms using a stepped care model. People receive initial brief self-management support, followed by individualised work capacity advice. By the final contacts, if required, we suggest adjustments that could be made to their working environment; we might liaise with their employer; and provide rehabilitation. All three steps help to join services by providing an AHP Fit Note that helps to facilitate the relationship between the individual and their GP and employer.
“We are really excited to be part of the trial as using a holistic, recovery-focussed vocational model is what occupational therapists are particularly skilled at. Assessing the person, the demands of the job and the working environment is what occupational therapists are trained to do.”
Occupational therapists are able to use their dual training to reduce the burden on primary care, working with individuals and their employers to enable people to return to work. The GP practice originally involved in the pilot in Solent NHS Trust had previously been part of an innovative occupational therapy emerging placements pilot run by Juliet Truman, an occupational therapy lecturer at the time from Southampton University, the practice had been very impressed by the wide skill base demonstrated by an occupational therapy student on placement at the surgery via Southampton University and the local HEE training hub. This made them a natural choice when deciding where to trial the new vocational clinics which will conclude in 2020.”
The pilot is being fully evaluated throughout the trial to assess the extent to which the initiative is contributing to improving outcomes, people’s experience; supporting the cost-effective delivery of care; and developing a rewarding and fulfilling job role for occupational therapists. The learning and data from the work will be used to support the extension of the primary care work alongside work to develop the extension of the ‘FIT Note’ from 2020.