As an occupational therapist working with people at the heart of the health and care system I see and hear on a daily basis how we are facing unprecedented pressures. I am sorry to say that in many ways, the system seems to be broken.
Despite the dedication, hard work, care and compassion of those working in it, there is an unpalatable truth that pressure on budgets and silo mentalities have created a system which supports people to exist rather than live their lives as independently as possible. Whilst this is no one’s intention, it can have a dehumanising and isolating effect, especially on the oldest and most vulnerable members of our society.
Too often, councils tell people what social care service they will get, instead of asking what they really need. This gap between the service people get and the services they really want can lead to costs arising elsewhere. A good example from the report is of a costly hospital admission as a result of a fall by a gentleman who wanted to get out of bed at 8am, when the council could only arrange a carer visit at 10am.
Something has to change and fast. This is why I am so pleased that the Royal College of Occupational Therapists has published a report which shows how occupational therapists more effectively can and do give older people back their dignity, and help the NHS and social care services to work better together, and to be more efficient. Occupational therapists identify what each person needs and wants to do and works with them to find ways of doing it.
Finding ways to solve problems and help people continue to participate in daily life doesn’t just improve their lives, but is a better use of public money. The older person retains their right to self-determination, independence and self-esteem whilst the tax payer gets a saving in the long-run. Without this sort of help older people have said that they are simply existing, not living, and to me that’s not good enough.
At the heart of the recommendations is evidence that doing the right thing for individuals can actually reduce their need for expensive care long-term. That’s got to be a ‘win-win’ all round.
For too long people working within health and care, and society as a whole, have been saying that something has to be done to “fix” the system. This report provides some definitive solutions. As occupational therapists we are setting out that we have an evidenced-based set of positive recommendations to make things better for the people who need care. Occupational therapists have a unique set of skills to be able to address what is needed.
It is time something was done to tackle this crisis.
Now is that time.
Sara Roberts, Wales Board, Royal College of Occupational Therapists