RCOT awarded funding to run occupational therapy-led vocational clinics in GP surgeries

RCOT awarded funding to run occupational therapy-led vocational clinics in GP surgeries

The Royal College of Occupational Therapists (RCOT) is delighted to announce that it has been successful in its bid for support from the Challenge Fund, to run occupational therapy led vocational clinics based in GP surgeries. The successful application was one of only 19 (out of 900 applications) chosen to receive the funding – run by the joint Department of Health and Social Care and Department for Work and Pensions, Work and Health Unit.

The pilot schemes will support people with musculoskeletal and/ or mental health problems stay in or return to work. The occupational therapy clinics will use a stepped care model ranging from brief self-management advice to employer liaison and rehabilitation. Each person using the service will receive a personalised Allied Health Professions Advisory Fitness for Work Report which they can share with their GP and employer.

Currently, 93% of GP Fit notes, which are designed to give general rather than job-specific advice, state that patients are unable to work and one third are issued for five weeks or longer (NHS Digital 2017). This vocational clinic initiative will test whether these figures could be improved with earlier, individualised return to work advice from occupational therapists in primary care.

The government’s policy paper, Improving Lives, the Future of Work, Health and Disability, (Department for Work and Pensions and the Department of Health and Social Care 2017), aims to legislate for extension of fit note certification powers to other healthcare professionals and for more employers to use the for Allied Health Professions Advisory Fitness for Work Report for Statutory Sick Pay purposes. The occupational therapy led vocational clinics will help our understanding of how occupational therapists could use fit note certification powers and how employers could use their advice.

The pilot will be delivered in Southampton and South Wales in partnership with University of Nottingham, Solent NHS Trust and Hywel Dda University Health Board.

Learning will be gathered from people using the service and other stakeholders about their experience of the initiative which ends in February 2020.

Genevieve Smyth, Professional Advisor at RCOT who led the bid says: “Winning the Challenge Fund allows the Royal College of Occupational Therapists to put staff directly into GP surgeries to give return to work advice. This means we can show patients, GPs and employers how, with early help from occupational therapists, people can avoid falling out of work. This initiative provides early intervention in primary care for people with physical and mental health problems. Too many people don’t get the right advice at the right time, putting their continued employment and income at risk. This not only impacts on the individual but the whole family. Early intervention also offers a quick, easy and direct solution to the growing burden of Fit Notes for GPs. We are looking forward to working with partners to deliver this high profile and ambitious project that will position the profession for the 21st century”

Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work Sarah Newton says: “The Challenge Fund has given experts on the ground the opportunity to come up with ideas on how best to support people to manage their health conditions at work, and the financial backing to take those ideas forward. I congratulate those successful in securing funding and look forward to working with them to develop these innovative ideas.”

Minister for Mental Health and Inequalities Jackie Doyle-Price said: No one should be held back at work because they are living with mental ill-health or a long-term health condition and this fund marks an important milestone in improving people’s quality of life and helping them thrive in the workplace.