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Could occupational therapists be the answer to the A&E crisis?

Wednesday 11th January 2017
Extra support from occupational therapists could help to ease some of the pressure facing the UKs A&E departments. Image: AmandaLewis via iStock
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Sending occupational therapists on callouts with ambulance crews could go some way towards solving the growing pressure that the UK's accident and emergency (A&E) departments are under.

This is the opinion of Julia Scott, chief executive officer of the College of Occupational Therapists (COT), who believes that deploying occupational therapists in ambulances could see more patients given treatment or advice in their homes rather than having to travel to hospital, where they would be adding to the workload of already busy A&E departments.

Newly-published data from the NHS shows that the number of people attending A&E in the UK rose by 4.6 per cent between 2015 and 2016 to reach over 20 million, which resulted in more than two million patients having to wait for four hours or more to be seen by a doctor. As a result, the health of those with serious complaints could have worsened.

With this in mind, the health service is looking at ways to stop people with ailments that could be treated at home or by their GP from visiting their local hospital, with the COT believing that occupational therapists could play a key role in helping to audit this.

The NHS data for last year reveals that the number of people visiting A&E increased by 12.2 per cent between January and March 2016 in comparison to the same three-month period of 2015. With this trend potentially set to continue this winter season, occupational therapist involvement may be needed within the coming weeks.

Ms Scott stated: "The increasing number of people turning up at accident and emergency departments is simply unsustainable.

"We are calling on NHS leaders to rapidly increase the number of occupational therapists working at the front line because we know that this would have a huge impact in reducing the unbearable pressure currently being placed on our hospitals."

She drew on previous evidence that shows deploying an occupational therapist to people's homes along with an ambulance crew can help to significantly reduce the number of patients who need to visit A&E, alongside cutting hospital admissions by up to 80 per cent.

Written by Alex Franklin Stortford

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