Community Occupational Therapy Service Realignment with Primary Care Services

Heather McNaught

Background to the Project

Historically community occupational therapy referrals were received via post, from the social services single point of access team. Patients would be triaged and potentially wait up to fourteen weeks on the occupational therapy waiting list.

The Project

The COVID 19 pandemic and the temporary cessation of routine community assessments allowed for a strategic change of the community occupational therapy provision to be aligned to primary care colleagues.

How this will be achieved

  • Facilitation of direct health to health referrals to be received electronically to the occupational therapy shared email address.
  • Existing community occupational therapy service team to be aligned within primary care teams. This allows for a physical presence of an occupational therapist within the primary care setting, meaning that referrals are generated earlier, before patients functionally decline or crisis ensues.
  • The realignment will allow for the MDT to access occupational therapy services earlier, meaning that crisis can be avoided and promotion of health and wellbeing needs can be instigated sooner.

Anticipated benefits

Phase one of the realignment has allowed for earlier access of relevant information based on the patient’s functional needs. It also allows the occupational therapists to cascade information to the primary care team if there are medical changes to the patient which needs to be addressed by the team, avoiding escalation to emergency services.

The second phase will be the delivery of preventative intervention sessions with patients in primary care services to ensure that they are able to achieve maximum health and wellbeing, for example; condition management, anxiety management etc.

Through engagement in these sessions it is hoped that the patient will be in greater control of their health and well-being needs and assume the expert patient role. This will in turn allow to a reduction in the need for services as the patient will have a greater understanding of their condition and how to manage it. Through engagement with the occupational therapy team, they will also be able to escalate any changes to their needs sooner, therefore avoiding crisis such as functional decline associated with condition, or carer breakdown.