Occupational therapists (OTs) support people of all ages with problems resulting from physical, mental, social, or development difficulties. OTs provide interventions that help people find ways to continue with everyday activities that are important to them. This could involve learning new ways to do things or making changes to their environment to make things easier. As patients’ needs are so varied, OTs 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 and need rehabilitation so they can continue with previous occupations (activities of daily living).
Occupational Therapists (OTs) in primary care can assess, plan, implement and evaluate treatment plans with an aim to increase patients’ productivity and self-care. They work with patients through a shared-decision making approach to plan realistic outcomes-focused goals. OTs undertake both verbal and non-verbal communication methods to address the needs of patients that have communication difficulties, whilst involving MDT colleagues, physiotherapists, social workers, alongside patients’ families, teachers, carers and employers in treatment planning to aid rehabilitation. Where appropriate, they support the development of discharge and contingency plans with relevant professionals to arrange on-going care in residential, care home, hospital, and community settings.
OTs periodically review, evaluate and change rehabilitation programmes to rebuild lost skills and restore confidence, and may provide advice on homes, at school, and workplace for environmental alterations. They can teach coping strategies and support adaptation to manage long-term conditions for physical and mental health, and also advise on specialist equipment and organisations to help with daily activities. OTs can help to upskill other primary health care professionals and work as part of a multidisciplinary general practice team to help deliver more collaborative and coordinated self-care approach to further benefit patient care.
- A BSc degree in occupational therapy is required to work as an occupational therapist in any setting.
- Health Education England Primary care FCP training must be completed as the minimum threshold for entry to primary care and be supported by appropriate governance and indemnity.
- Health Education England primary care FCP training can begin 3-5 years after the completion of the postgraduate degree
Supervision for Occupational Therapists in Primary Care
Appropriate supervision will be required for all occupational therapists working in Primary Care.
Existing GP Educational supervisors are able to supervise occupational therapists undertaking FCP and AP roles and do not need to attend additional training.
GPs who have completed the First Contact Practitioner Supervisor Development course can provide clinical supervision to occupational therapist undertaking FCP and AP roles.
Benefits to patients
- Improves the individual patient’s independence
- Improves specific self-care skills
- Therapists provide compensatory techniques to improve an individual’s ability to complete self-care tasks following a change in functional abilities
- Improve strength and endurance for functional tasks
- Can work on functional cognition and visual deficits with the therapist
- Benefit from caregiver training from the therapists
- Patients receive expert advice in adaptive equipment and home modifications, such as, through home evaluations.
Benefits to PCN’s
- Can work as part of the multidisciplinary general practice team
- Deliver more collaborative and coordinated selfcare and environmental adjustments advice alongside their colleagues to benefit patient care
- Help to better manage the patient’s own selfcare, keep them well and reduce visits to the practice the patient may have otherwise needed to make.
Benefits to the wider NHS
- Deliver health promotion initiatives to their local community
- Can assist in reducing much more costly crisis interventions by helping patients maintain their health and wellbeing through better selfcare, patient independence and much needed environmental adjustments
- Teach and inform the public and health professionals about occupational therapies to improve their health outcomes and ensure they live well
- Work to ensure occupational therapy is included as a priority in on-going patient selfcare and condition management
The role of the Occupational Therapist may include some of the following activities:
- Participate in rapid assessment for patients who present with a variety of acute and long term neurological, multifactorial and age related conditions
- Ensure effective communication where this may be impaired
- Ensure a high standard of clinical care for the patients under your management
- Interpret and analyse clinical and non-clinical facts to form an accurate diagnosis and prognosis in a wide range of conditions
- To undertake comprehensive assessment of patients, using investigative and analytical skills and to formulate individualised management and treatment plans
- Be responsible for a designated caseload of patients
- Use a range of standardised and non-standardised assessment tools and techniques to identify presenting strengths and difficulties
- Enhance and develop the skills and dexterity, co-ordination and palpatory senses for assessment and manual treatment of patients
- Refine treatment techniques in line with the most recent evidence of clinical effectiveness
- Devise individualised therapy management or treatment plans which may be implemented and supported by other members of the multidisciplinary team
- Provide proactive and reactive advice, teaching and instruction to relatives, carers and other professionals
- To have a working knowledge of equipment, minor adaptations and resources including ADL equipment, therapy and rehabilitation aids, moving and handling equipment
- Consider the needs of carers to ensure necessary support systems are in place and to involve them in the rehabilitation process