Our ‘Improving Lives, Saving Money’ campaign at the Royal College of Occupational Therapists seeks to show how occupational therapists are already delivering better, more efficient services and show case this as model for improvement elsewhere. This month, we were delighted to receive the support of Dr Robin Roop, Vice President of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine Wales, who has highlighted the positive impact of occupational therapy at his own hospital.
In an open letter in support of our report “Reducing the pressure on hospitals – A report of the value of Occupational Therapy in Wales”, Dr Roop, a consultant at Wrexham Maelor Hospital Emergency Department, described the positive difference to emergency medicine that occupational therapists are making. Doctors at the front door of the Emergency Department can refer patients to the occupational therapy team who together with physiotherapy and nursing colleagues assess them and if suitable help the patient to get home on the same day, organising support in the community where needed. Figures show that on an average weekday, the team provide an alternative to admission for 85% of the patients they see, reducing the pressure on the other services.
The need for such innovate practice to take pressure of accident and emergency has been highlighted again in new research from the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) which shows more than three quarters of dementia patients had at least one A&E attendance in their last year of life. Julia Scott, Chief Executive of the Royal College of Occupational Therapists, has responded by pointing out how people with complex and deteriorating needs are sometimes regarded simply as a set of care needs rather than as a person who need increasing help and support. “This can lead to the type of disjointed care, as this new research highlights, and results in thousands of unnecessary hospital admissions every year, particularly for people with dementia, at huge financial cost to the health and care system and emotional cost to the person and their family” she said.
Our recent report on Putting Prevention at the Heart of Care for Older People has detailed how occupational therapists can reduce such unnecessary admissions. The College’s influencing toolkit has now been updated to include details from the new report. The toolkit includes resources to be used with colleagues and stakeholders to promote the key messages from the campaign which can be tailored to suit specific audiences.
Occupational therapists can help to improve lives and save money in both physical and mental health. We welcome news that Health Education England’s (HEE) Mental Health Workforce Plan for England has committed to funding new therapists and allied health professional posts in mental health services and crisis care settings. Our forthcoming report on the contribution of occupational therapists in mental health services will provide a blueprint for how best to deploy these new staff on the frontline.
Over the rest of 2017, we will also be showing the value of occupational therapy in improving lives and saving money in both prisons and fire & rescue services as well as providing an update on new occupational services set up to relieve pressure on A&E services as a result of our Reducing the pressure on hospitals report in November, one year on from the report’s release.