Occupational therapy proves crucial for reducing hospital admissions in England

In News and Updates by COT Editor

The College of Occupational Therapists has called for an urgent increase in the use of occupational therapists to reduce pressure on hospitals this winter and beyond.

A year- long campaign by the College found occupational therapists can reduce hospital admissions by 70-80% by working in A&E and frontline emergency services, prompting the call for urgent action. Access to an occupational therapy assessment at the hospital front door cuts admissions and discharge delays, reducing the time patients spend in hospital unnecessarily. NHS England data showed waiting for an assessment for care needs is a leading cause in hospital discharge delays.

Julia Scott, Chief Executive at the College of Occupational Therapists said:

“Patients are getting to occupational therapists too late and risk being admitted into hospital unnecessarily. We want to see more occupational therapists in A&E and in acute teams so that medically fit patients can get home, stay independent and continue with daily activities.

There’s a growing crisis in our hospitals and occupational therapists are proving they can lead a solution. We now call on NHS providers to urgently review their admission and discharge teams to increase 7 day occupational therapy-led services across hospitals.”

Occupational therapists in A & E support patients to return home safely and manage daily activities independently. An occupational therapy assessment supports peoples’ ability to continue to take part in daily occupations and activities. They provide advice in falls prevention, arrange home adaptations and signpost patients to support services so they can manage once home.

The College argues that a medical ‘fix’ is not enough for frail older people and that hospitals should equally focus on patients’ needs for recovery and long term independence. The Reducing the Pressure on Hospitals report from COT gives six key recommendations for change including the provision of occupational therapists in all rapid response and emergency care services, more occupational therapy within primary care to prevent frailty and falls-related hospital admissions and ‘out of hours’ service provision.

Service example 1


Occupational therapists in the Rapid Response Service at Royal Free’s Barnet Hospital have prevented more than 83% of admissions across 7 services. By working in the A&E and adult assessment unit they can ensure more than 96% of people return to their own home.

Service example 2


An A&E occupational therapy team at St Richard’s Hospital in Chichester has achieved significant financial savings. Its occupational therapy focused assessments across the emergency department have prevented 70% of admissions, with 58% of patients returning to their own home. Estimated savings a month are £169,304.

Notes to Editors

For queries please contact Andrew Sharratt at the College of Occupational Therapists on 0207 450 2359 or via MediaOfficer@cot.co.uk.

The College’s Reducing Pressure on Hospitals Report will be published on 16 November 2016 part of its Improving Lives, Saving Money Campaign.

The report makes six key recommendations:

  • To prevent inappropriate admissions from falls occupational therapists there needs to be an increased partnership working between occupational therapy and ambulance services.
  • Occupational therapists should be in all rapid response and emergency care services.
  • Extend occupational therapy services to improve 7 day hospital discharge.
  • Occupational therapists should be in all hospital admission and discharge teams
  • Commissioners and providers to support therapy led services across hospitals, in parallel with medical care.
  • Occupational therapists to lead reablement and community support programmes.

The College is the professional body for occupational therapy representing 31,000 occupational therapists across the UK. Occupational therapists provide life changing support to people managing illness, injuries and a wide range of physical and mental health conditions. Uniquely, they enable people to carry out daily activities (‘occupations’) which are essential for health and happiness. This vital care helps people recover and build new skills to enjoy a full and independent life.