Posted on 21 April 2023

​The demand for occupational therapists (OTs) is now at an all-time high following coronavirus and the chronic pressure on the NHS, where OTs are now being used to carry out other healthcare checks in lieu of adequate NHS staffing. A damning report from the Royal College of Occupational Therapists showed that 9 in 10 OTs demonstrated an increase in demand in the last calendar year, with 4/5 OTs saying that this is linked to the lack of capacity in the care system.

OTs help with movement, functional setups for people with health problems and enable people with health issues to lead a fuller life through adjustment and adaptation, including in the work force. However, more OTs are being drafted in to help other areas of the health service outside of their remit where the services are falling down. This increased stress and demand is having an acute effect on OTs who are becoming jaded and demoralised by the never-ending workload. An anonymous article in the Royal College of Occupational Therapists news section laid bare what their staff are dealing with.

OTs reported several beliefs for this increase in demand (straight from the report);

  • People accessing services struggling more with activities because of delayed intervention (66%) 

  • People accessing services having increased mental health needs (54%) 

  • Lack of availability of carers (52%) 

  • A broader range of referrals being received (42%).

What’s more, 4 out of 5 OTs have said they do not have a team big enough to meet the demand that is required of them. Multidisciplinary teams are feeling the pressure across hospitals and care homes, with 70% of staff saying they were too stressed at work, affecting their mental health of 7 out of 10 OTs. What’s more, half have said they’re going to leave because of the state of things.

The Director of Practice and Innovation, Karin Orman said, “Our profession can offer so much to patients and yet we are continually having to compromise on care due to lack of staff and poorly staffed teams due to vacancies. New services and teams want occupational therapists – they value us and our clinical expertise and skills but there aren't the occupational therapists to fill those teams”.

The suggestions include things such as an expansion of OT roles, teams and resources;

  • Looking to expand the workforce so staff can fill current and future vacancies

  • Create resiliency in the teams and create better morale so workers are properly supported in their roles

  • To try and highlight that systemic funding issues hinder growth and more investment in the NHS and social care is critical to a healthy population and therefore economic growth.

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