Fiona Sanchez, Training Coordinator at Lancashire Mind talks about the role Occupational Therapists can play in assisting employers to improve the work and health needs of their staff.
Allied Healthcare Professionals (AHPs) are practitioners providing a range of diagnostic, technical, therapeutic, and support services in connection with health care.
Of the fourteen professions currently registered with the Allied Healthcare Professions Council (HCPC), Occupational Therapists are the only AHPs who can practice both mental health and physical health once qualified. Therefore, Occupational Therapy sits comfortably astride a variety of healthcare settings.
Because of this duality, Occupational Therapists (OTs), are uniquely positioned to support a person's work and health needs, using expertise in both physical and mental health. The importance of the role has been recognised further with the introduction of Role Emerging Placements. These placements are now mandatory in undergraduate training. With student practitioners placed within an organisation or service area where no OT is currently employed.
There has been a shift in recent years to develop Occupational Therapy in non-traditional roles and areas. This was something I embarked upon eight months ago when I joined the Lancashire Mind Training Team.
The majority of Occupational Therapists (OTs) I know have at some point crossed paths with a client or patient who has candidly said, “I don’t need an Occupational Therapist, I already have a job!”
The clinical term for 'occupation' goes far beyond an employed occupation. In clinical practice, it refers to the everyday activities people do as individuals, including socially and with communities; to occupy time and bring meaning and purpose to life. Often this can confuse my role significantly as I work within the Training Team at Lancashire Mind, whose predominant focus is Wellbeing in the Workplace!
In recent years there has been a push from the Royal College of Occupational Therapists for the role of an OT to assist employers. Helping them to improve their knowledge and confidence in managing employees' work and health needs, as highlighted in RCOT’s Good work for good health: The difference occupational therapy makes. The report was published in 2019, feeding into the Health and Work Champions Programme, which followed in 2020 (Summary Health and Work Champions March 2020.pdf).
The Health and Work Champions Programme was formed through the partnership of the Royal College of Occupational Therapists (RCOT) and Public Health England (PHE). Providing training to both Occupational Therapists and other health care professionals on how to be Health and Work Champions. These resources have become integral to my role within the third sector.
Evidence suggests that 12.7% of all sickness absence days in the U.K. can be attributed to mental health conditions (Mental health at work: statistics | Mental Health Foundation). Over 100,000 people leave work following a spell of long-term sickness absence each year, the longer an absence persists - the greater the likelihood that an individual does not return to work (publishing.service.gov.uk).
Disabled people face greater challenges maintaining employment than non-disabled people. In 2019 disabled people were ten times more likely to have a spell of long-term sickness absence and leave work than non-disabled people (ons.gov.uk).
Occupational Therapy is underpinned by principles related to the benefits of work, and supporting people with health conditions to gain, return to and maintain paid employment. With these statistics in mind, it is important to consider why a clinical approach can be beneficial in improving employers’ knowledge and confidence to manage employees’ work and health needs.
An OT can support employers' understanding of the relationship between a person’s health and the employment activities carried out in their work environment. These three components impact an employee's performance, health, and wellbeing at work.
Person, Environment, Occupation Model (PEO) specific to work participation (Good work for good health: the difference occupational therapy makes - RCOT).
- Under the Occupational Therapy framework and models of practice, OTs can support employers to understand the interplay of work-life balance. Working roles can have both negative and positive impacts on an individual’s personal life and vice versa! It is important to consider that paid employment can be defined as meaningful activity and therefore carries some therapeutic properties. It is crucial that employees feel supported in their working role and reasonable adjustments should be implemented when needed to sustain this.
- The Royal College of Occupational Therapists states, "Healthy workplaces can go some way to preventing poor health in the first place." Through my role within the Training Team at Lancashire Mind, I am able to deliver a variety of training specific to Wellbeing in the Workplace, which promotes healthy working environments for all staff.
In short, current research continues to suggest a growing need for Occupational Therapists within an occupational health setting. I am proud to be working with Lancashire Mind to bring core Occupational Therapy values to the Training Team. By developing training, interventions, and strategies that promote Wellbeing in the Workplace and making this available to businesses across Lancashire.
For more information about Lancashire Minds Workplace Wellbeing services visit:
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