A SURVEY by the Royal College of Occupational Therapists (RCOT) has found that 68% of its members in Wales reported an increase in demand for occupational therapy services and that 75% of its members in Wales feel as though they are unable to provide the necessary support to patients. The findings raise questions about the prospects of providing timely rehabilitation support, which is vital to people’s recovery from short term illnesses and the long-term management of health issues.
As the country begins to ‘live with COVID’, already overstretched, rehabilitation services have seen demand rocket over the past two years due to the COVID pandemic and are now seeing a further rapid increase in patients. The findings raise questions about the prospects of providing timely rehabilitation, for people recovering from short- and long-term illnesses, and need urgent support to live independently carry out their daily lives.
The survey, which over 550 occupational therapists working across the UK took part in, found that:
84% are supporting people whose needs have become more complex due to delayed interventions arising from the pandemic
82% of respondents noted increased demand for occupational therapy-led rehabilitation over the previous six months.
71% of respondents felt there were not enough OTs to meet demand.
66% of respondents reported difficulties in delivering rehabilitation services due to reduced access to facilities, suitable space and equipment.
50% are supporting people affected by Long Covid.
Commenting on the survey, RCOT Director of Practice and Innovation, Karin Orman said:
“It’s clear from this survey that rehabilitation services across Wales and the rest of UK are overloaded, with the vast majority of occupational therapists seeing a huge increase in demand and complexity of their caseload over the last six months alone. This simply isn’t sustainable and there isn’t a big enough workforce to currently meet demand.
“Across the UK, health and social care leaders need to invest more in rehabilitation services and drive the recruitment of more occupational therapists as a matter of urgency. Not in a few years but now. As leaders of rehabilitation services, occupational therapists are a vital part of the solution to getting through the backlog of people needing intervention. The maths is simple – the quicker people have access to rehabilitation services, the better their chances at getting back to doing the things they need and love to do.”
Russell George MS, Chair of the Health and Social Care Committee of the Senedd said:
“The Health and Social Care Committee has recently undertaken a detailed inquiry into the impact of waiting times on people in Wales. We firmly believe that effective rehabilitation and reablement are vital to ensure that people can stay healthy after they have received their treatment.
“A key recommendation of the committee to the Welsh Government is that the Minister for Health and Social Services should set out what action is being taken to ensure that health boards are providing suitable venues for the delivery of services such as rehabilitation and occupational therapy both in hospitals, on the primary care estate, and in the community.
“We look forward to receiving the response of the Welsh Government.”