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The OT Practice Logo - The OT Practice Logo
Last updated April 2020

Helping Charities find a New Normal for Service Delivery

We spoke with our corporate partner The OT Practice on how they are continuing to provide occupational therapy services during these challenging times. 

The OT Practice are an independent occupational therapy provider covering the United Kingdom and with a proven track record in the charity sector. They work with many of our members including SSAFA, The Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund, Bank Workers Charity and Clergy Support Trust, and have recently been re-awarded the OT contract with The Royal British Legion.

The work they carry out is varied but is always focused around ensuring a beneficiary’s independence and quality of life is maximised in their own homes and communities. For some this may be the provision of a mobility aid such as a scooter or wheelchair, for others it might be equipment within the home such as beds or chairs and for those with more complex needs or in paediatric cases they support with home adaptations and specialist equipment provision.

Nikki Thompson, Executive Director, tells us “Our work with charities is vital to ensure that funds are spent appropriately and beneficiaries needs are met. Before a charity can fund an item of equipment, they need to know what is the right and cost-effective solution for the beneficiary that will meet their immediate and longer term needs. Equally without clinical oversight equipment may be requested and provided that unwittingly causes harm.

The client group that they look after for charities tend to be some of the most vulnerable in terms of age and clinical needs. With the introduction of the lockdown and the likely longevity of restrictions, they knew they needed to find a new way to ensure that beneficiaries are still looked after.

Nikki tells us, “It’s important to remember that beneficiaries are generally requiring an OT assessment because they have a clinical need which, if not addressed, could lead to an increased risk of harm such as falls or the development of a pressure sore. Both examples would then require front line resources at the very time that we are needing to reduce the pressure on the NHS.”  

A wholesale cessation of community occupational therapy provision is not a safe or appropriate course of action, instead they have worked with their commissioners to establish a new normal for community occupational therapy and equipment delivery.

Each case is risk assessed and categorised into one of the following models of delivery:

  1. Those who can be looked after remotely. This is approximately 80% of their clients. Through the use of telephone or video platforms they are successfully conducting seating and functional OT assessments with beneficiaries to identify needs and spec equipment. The equipment providers have responded very positively to the current restrictions and have developed innovate remote assessment and specification tools. The majority are also still delivering and installing equipment using social distancing precautions.
  2. Those who need a visit in person, these are classed as Essential Visits and would occur if one of the following apply: There is a significant risk of harm to the beneficiary or others, to prevent a hospital admission or to facilitate a hospital discharge. Currently approximately 15% of clients fall into this category and are being visited using social distancing, a Covid screening process and by completing as much of the assessment in advance over the telephone.
  3. The final group compromise of approximately only 5% of clients and are people who are not able to engage in a remote assessment either due to a physical, cognitive or emotional reason and they do not meet the criteria for an Essential Visit. With these clients they are keeping in touch telephonically and doing all they can to mitigate any immediate risk and as soon as restrictions lift and the beneficiary wishes, will go to see them.

By taking a pragmatic and risk assessed approach to each case they have worked collaboratively with their charity colleagues to ensure that those in need are still able to access services, reducing risk and therefore pressure on valuable front-line NHS services.

Nikki says “it was initially a challenging time, we knew the clients referred to us by charities are vulnerable and at risk and we needed to find ways we could deliver services to them without putting them or our team at risk.  We worked collaboratively with our referrers across multiple charities and together have developed a pragmatic and risk assessed approach. There are few precedents for the landscape in which we now find ourselves, but, as a profession and as human beings we are resilient and adaptable, and I am incredibly proud of all that The OT Practice and the wider charity community are achieving at this moment.