'Improve occupational therapy access in Wales,' report says

A man receiving help to spread butter on bread Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Occupational therapy helps people work out practical solutions to their everyday difficulties

Better access to occupational therapy could help older people in Wales to keep their dignity, a report has said.

It would also allow health and social care services to work more efficiently, according to the Royal College of Occupational Therapists' (RCOT) report.

It said therapists and support workers were "driving forward improvements" but work must "go further and faster".

The Welsh Government said occupational therapists increasingly play a "key role" in health and social care.

RCOT chief executive Julia Scott said there "can no longer be any excuse" as to why all older people in Wales do not have access to the best occupational therapy (OT) services.

"Occupational therapy has proved its value. But now is the time for this work to go further and faster.

"We want occupational therapists to be given the tools and resources necessary to ensure that everyone across Wales receives these same high standards of care," she added.

Published on Thursday, the RCOT's Living, not Existing report recommended occupational therapists be based within primary care units to prevent any delay for care and support.

It also called for OTs to be deployed to develop "person and community-centred" approaches to ensure older people "live independently, for as long as possible".

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In addition, the RCOT called for partnerships between housing, health and social care bodies to improve access, irrespective of people's circumstances.

The RCOT, which has 1,600 members in Wales, pointed to several examples across the country where OT projects had saved money and time.

For instance, in Cardiff the council's OT team reviewed 227 care and direct payment packages between April 2015 and March 2016.

The report estimated the assessments save £120,000 by preventing increases of care and £274,000 by cutting care packages.

Ruth Crowder, Wales Policy Officer for ROCT, said "high-volume, low-cost" approaches to delivering care have an "isolating and dehumanising effect" on older people.

"Across Wales there are some really innovative examples where the intelligent deployment of occupational therapy services has enhanced the lives of older people," she added.

"These savings are achievable but rely on better-designed and connected services in our communities."

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The WLGA said Welsh councils had been "working hard" with other bodies to place a "greater emphasis" on preventative and community care, including occupational therapy services.

But they added that despite some "innovative projects", collaborative working alone cannot solve all the problems.

"Significant investment is needed by Welsh Government, not only to enhance and build on the provision of social and community care, and services such as occupational therapy, but to also support further integrated working between health and social care," a spokesman said.

'A clear vision'

A Welsh Government spokesman said it had a "clear vision" for ensuring health and social care was provided in the community, "closer to people's homes".

"Occupational Therapists are increasingly playing a key role as part of integrated health and care teams across Wales," he added.

"Our £60m Integrated Care Fund has been used to develop new and innovative models of integrated working between social services, health and the third services."

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