Occupational therapy Q&A

Posted on Tue, 30/04/2019

We met Gateshead occupational therapist (OT) Felicity Andrews to talk more about her role in the NHS and how it fits into the wider health and care system

So, what is occupational therapy?

In the simplest terms we provide practical support to help people recover or overcome the things that could prevent them from doing day to day activities such as caring for themselves, working or doing the things they love.

We help people overcome any functional issues they might have and ultimately it’s about getting people back home from hospital so they can live safely and independently. This can be through rehabilitation or identifying equipment they might need to help them get on with life at home.

What type of patients do you see?

I’m based at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital and on the wards that I work on there is no specific group of patients that I see. I get involved with people of all ages who have a multitude of health conditions and differing functional needs.

They may need an OT for lots of different reasons because so many conditions or illnesses can cause a functional decline that stop people being able to do the things they could before. Sometimes it’s after a planned operation, but there are many other reasons why patients would benefit from OT support and it can really help people in getting back home.

What do you do in typical day?

I start the day by screening for patients who may need input on the short stay wards. We have a really close relationship with the frailty team front of house who help us to identify those patients who may have had a functional decline.

We’re trying to identify rehabilitation needs sooner so that we can reduce unnecessary admissions and the time people need to spend in hospital. This also allows us to begin discharge conversations sooner which enables us to identify how we can get them where they want to be – which is back home and into their usual routine.

What does work on the wards involve?

We work as part of a much wider hospital team that includes nurses and physios to make sure patients get the best possible, all round care and then get home safely.

After being in hospital lots of our patients tend to need support with washing, dressing, preparing meals and living safely within their own environment - that’s one of the most important things we think about. We have to look longer term so appropriate levels of support is arranged through social workers to ensure that patients have the right packages of care should they need it once they are discharged home.

We spend time talking to families and relatives to provide advice and support on all aspects of rehabilitation.

The team also visits people’s homes to make sure they have the right equipment and environment for their needs. This can include things like beds or making downstairs living arrangements.

How are things changing around occupational therapy?

It’s much more recognised as a really important role now, especially with the increase in demand on hospitals and the growing number of older, frailer patients with complex needs.

In Gateshead we’ve recently invested more in therapy so that we can have more staff across the hospital, identify rehabilitation needs sooner and work more closely with other agencies to provide more joined up services.

We want to prevent unnecessary hospital admissions as much as possible and reduce the length of time people need to stay if they are admitted.

Can you give any examples?

We recently saw a 97 year old lady in hospital who had been admitted numerous times for falls out of bed at home. After an OT assessment we were able to put a plan in place, meet with her family, provide appropriate equipment to reduce the risks associated with falling and work with her to improve function.  This lady has had no more admissions for falls since we had involvement with her.

Another 76 year old man lived alone in an upstairs flat and thanks to our discharge plan he was able to go home the same day. We were able to facilitate his rehab at home via referrals to community teams and services instead of him having to be admitted into the hospital.

How did you become an OT?

I did a 2 year Masters degree which incorporated a variety of placements throughout my course to prepare me for professional practice. You can find out more information here

To read more about occupational therapy take a look at our previous blog - click here

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