The elderly are undoubtedly our National Health Service's biggest users. Patients aged 65+ account for a massive 1 in 2 of all hospital bed days, and those aged 85+ are two times more likely to have an emergency admission to hospital than that of the general population.
Couple this with the fact that 'bed-blockers' are predominantly older people, and are costing the NHS up to £900m a year, I think it's high time we recognise the invaluable work of those who are easing the pressure on our hospitals by helping to keep the elderly at home. Occupational Therapists are greatly improving the lives of elderly and disabled persons up and down this country. Growing numbers are assessing patients needing urgent care and supporting them to remain in their own homes. The profession is being taken note of more and more across our hospitals, and is increasingly being seen as a key way to solving the bed blocking problem.
Occupational Therapists provide home visits, work actively in care homes and are experts in one-to-one care. As a result of their valiant efforts, hospitals are seeing a decrease in admissions of patients who could be supported in their own home.
What people are saying about OT's
I dug around a bit online to see what experts in this field were saying. Here's what I found...
The president of the British Geriatrics Society (Professor David Oliver) says it is not just about admission prevention, but also about reducing older people’s hospital stays. He says, "At every stage of the process, Occupational Therapists are important, but what tends to happen in the public dialogue is we talk about doctors and nurses and not the wider health professionals."
A report released earlier this year by the independent Commission on Improving Urgent Care for Older People, stated: "A focus on well-being and, often, community support can help avoid an older person being admitted to hospital and preserve their independence in day-to-day living." View the report.
Occupational Therapists are important, but what tends to happen in the public dialogue is we talk about doctors and nurses and not the wider health professionals
The report also recommended that multidisciplinary teams (teams tasked with bringing doctors and nurses together with wider health professionals) might often be best placed in GPs’ surgeries, with the view to increasing the public exposure and accessibility of professionals such as Occupational Therapists.
Dr Maggie Keeble, clinical lead in proactive care says, "A GP will often be reactive. They will go in if there’s a problem and someone has fallen or got an infection. But they won’t necessarily be the best placed to see that if we can sort out aids and equipment at home, we can protect this person from deteriorating further. It’s not about keeping people out of hospital if they need to be there, but so often they don’t need to be in hospital.” (Source: The Guardian Newspaper)
Case Study: The Lincoln Care Home Service
I also came across a great example of all this in action. Meet the Lincoln Care Home Service, a team of doctors, nurses and occupational therapists who are aiming to visit every care home in the Lincoln and the surrounding region over the next two years.
The team assesses every resident of each home. They review a resident's medication, assessing their physical and mental capacity, and look at any future care needs. By the end of the two year period, The Lincoln Care Home Service intends to have reviewed more than 1,000 people in 22 homes.
Three months in, and the scheme has already had been hugely successful. Hospital admissions for residents in the first home they assessed have reduced by 64% compared with the previous quarter.
Occupational therapist Graham Wilson said: “The work we do is about assessing the current condition of each resident, the care that they are being provided with and how that can be improved so that they do not end up in hospital unnecessarily. We have a nutritionist, occupational therapist, doctor, nurses and a physiotherapist as part of the team so that, together with the resident and their family, we can look at the whole picture and ask how each person can be best cared for where they are. (Source: The Lincolnite Newspaper)
Find out more about the value Occupational Therapists are bringing to our hospitals and the impact they are having on today's health care system: