It’s fairly common knowledge within the occupational therapy profession that the UK doesn’t have enough trained professionals to go around. In some areas of the country - including London, the midlands and the east of England - vacancy rates are as high as 40 per cent, leaving patients without access to vital care.
Rural areas of the UK are also short on occupational therapy staff, particularly those that are a long way away from universities. In a bid to improve this situation, the Migration Advisory Committee has recommended adding occupational therapy to the shortage occupation list; something for which the Royal College of Occupational Therapists (RCOT) has been extensively lobbying.
Karin Bishop, RCOT assistant director of professional practice, said: “We are calling on the government to take forward the committee’s recommendation to safeguard the health and wellbeing of the public and their ability to live independently.
“Without access to the type of proactive preventative care that occupational therapists provide, more people will undoubtedly ‘overflow’ into already overstretched A&E departments or GP surgeries. This is worse for patients and more expensive for the NHS.”
Being on the shortage occupation list requires a profession to be genuinely skilled, to have evidence of a staff shortage and to have no way of meeting the demand for jobs domestically. These are all criteria occupational therapy meets, making this the first time the career has been added to the list.
The next stage now is for the government to consider its response. However, with no realistic way to recruit enough occupational therapists from the UK and with RCOT members struggling to recruit from overseas, many within the profession are hoping occupational therapy gets added to the shortage occupation list.
Written by Alex Franklin Stortford
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