RCOT calls on next Scottish Government to invest in occupational therapy services
The Royal College of Occupational Therapists (RCOT) has published its manifesto for the Scottish Election in 2021, which stresses the need to invest in occupational therapy services to help meet built-up demand as the nation recovers from COVID-19.
The next Scottish Parliament election is scheduled to be held on 6 May 2021.
Entitled ‘Scottish Election Manifesto 2021‘, it recognises the key role that occupational therapists (OTs) play in enabling people to live independent lives, while easing pressure on health and care services. OTs work in the NHS, social services, care homes and in local communities, covering a broad range of sectors.
The manifesto was sent to parties at the end of 2020 to encourage them to consider RCOT’s key asks when writing their manifestos.
RCOT is now calling on the next Scottish Government to increase occupational therapy services for children and young people to address physical and mental health needs early; ensure the right to community rehabilitation; and deliver parity between health and social care. It says that OTs can be used to relieve pressure on key services and save the health and social care sectors money.
Alison Keir, Professional Practice Lead Scotland, said: “Occupational therapists play a vital role in supporting the nation’s health and care services, improving lives, relieving pressure on emergency services and saving money.
“We are calling on the new Scottish government to support access to occupational therapy services aid the nation’s recovery from COVID-19 and support individuals to be happy and productive citizens. By supporting candidates that have committed to our key asks, occupational therapists will be best placed to assist their service users and support heath, social care, and the third sector in Scotland.”
Ensure parity between health and social care
Importantly, the manifesto notes that treating social care and healthcare equally is key to ensuring people can manage their symptoms in the community whilst relieving pressure on overstretched acute services.
RCOT says that social care has traditionally been undervalued but the service it delivers is vital in terms of protection prevention and rehabilitation for vulnerable people.
Echoing the issue of social care being undervalued, ADASS recently called for an immediate £480 million cash injection in England and for new recruits to support the “exhausted” social care sector. It added that an urgent investment in social care is vital so that essential services for older people, disabled people, families and carers do not collapse in the wake of the pandemic.
Continuing in the manifesto, the college adds: “The future of social care should be based around a clear framework of delivery that enables identification of associated knowledge skills and behaviours. To adequately support people we must consider how they live within their home but also their access and ability to integrate and be part of with their wider communities.
“Elements of an ideal model of social care would include suitable housing, investment in training, technology enabled care, capacity building in communities, funding for community rehabilitation, and a shift away from crisis intervention to a much earlier more enabling, person centered, model of care.”
Now, RCOT is calling on the next Scottish Government to ensure parity of recognition, esteem and funding between health and social care.
The right to community rehabilitation
In addition, the manifesto notes that the coronavirus pandemic has highlighted how important access to high-quality and person-centred community rehabilitation is. NHS England estimates that roughly half of people hospitalised with COVID-19 will require rehabilitation, the college notes.
As a result, RCOT is expecting to see a significant demand for rehabilitation services in the near future and says OTs can help with this situation.
“Occupational therapy restores a person’s quality of life, giving them back their independence and reduces their need for ongoing health and social care support,” the college highlights. “As a key health and care profession, occupational therapy is the bridge between getting people from hospital into their communities and being able to get on with life.”
RCOT is now calling on the next Scottish Government to invest in occupational therapy. It says this will allow people returning from hospital to get back into their communities, regaining their life and work roles. The college also says that the government need to ensure that all patients have access to high-quality rehabilitation after being discharged from hospital.
Increasing the presence of occupational therapy in children and young people services
RCOT says that addressing the impact of adverse childhood experiences and other health and social inequalities on childhood outcomes is a Public Health Scotland priority and early intervention is essential to prevent mental health problems from escalating.
However, the manifesto says that between 2013/14 and 2017/18, referrals to specialist mental health services increased by 22 percent. RCOT adds that whilst the COVID-19 pandemic saw a 57 percent reduction in referrals between April and June 2020 – due to suspension of mental health services – as services start back up again, this built-up demand could lead to overwhelming pressure on these services.
The college states that OTs could be part of the solution to this problem.
“In order to meet this increased demand for support, we believe there needs to be greater collaboration between health, social care, education and the voluntary sector,” the manifesto states. “Increasing the presence of occupational therapy in these sectors and adopting a partnership approach extends the reach of occupational therapy services to more children, young people and families, freeing-up specialist occupational therapy capacity to support children and young people with the most complex needs and circumstances.”
Now, RCOT is calling on the next Scottish Government to redesign occupational therapy services to so children and young people can have direct access to occupational therapy skills and expertise when they need it.
It says that shifting occupational therapy resources to focus on health promotion and prevention in schools, early years and community settings will ensure that opportunities to promote physical and mental health are embedded into every aspect of a young person’s life, optimising their development, health and well-being.