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Universal and targeted therapies can expand reach of occupational therapy

Thursday 13th December 2018
Occupational therapy work does not always require an occupational therapist to be present in a one-on-one setting, an expert has argued.
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The use of targeted and universal therapy delivered through third parties such as schools can help extend the reach of occupational therapy without a therapist actually having to be present, it has been suggested.

Writing for the Royal College of Occupational Therapists (RCOT) website, the organisation's professional adviser for children, young people and families Sally Payne pointed to a problem arising from the finite number of occupational therapists. This means any kind of therapy involving one-on-one treatments beginning with an appointment for which patients might have a protracted wait will lead to significant delays in commencing treatment. She suggested this is unnecessary.

The expert said handwriting is a key case in point, as this is an area where help from occupational therapists is often requested from teachers and parents, and questioned whether it is necessary for each child struggling in this area to have individual appointments with occupational therapists. 

At present, these tend to be referred in the normal way, but Ms Payne said constraints on resources mean this is "no longer sustainable", adding: "We need to think about extending our reach and making the best use of our resources by providing more support for children with handwriting (and other) difficulties at universal and targeted levels."

She gave the example of how targeted therapy might be delivered, explaining that an occupational therapist might be involved in training teachers in areas like pencil grip to improve writing skills, or play exercises parents can use to improve dexterity. 

Ms Payne concluded: "Investing occupational therapy expertise in developing more universal and targeted interventions will free up therapists to provide specialist interventions for those young people who require highly personalised input to meet their individual needs." 

The need to use resources more efficiently is influenced by staffing shortages and those seeking occupational therapy jobs will find there are plenty of vacancies. 

Part of the problem is the difficulty of securing talent from overseas and RCOT has been lobbying the Migration Advisory Committee for inclusion on the list of professions that the government should permit to be targeted for international recruitment.

Written by Alex Franklin Stortford

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