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Occupational Therapists move into GP practices reducing referral waiting times


Occupational Therapists in Flintshire and Wrexham have moved into GP practices reducing the waiting time by an average of nine weeks. 

To become more aligned with primary care services Betsi Cadwaladr University Health’s Board’s (BCUHB) community Occupational Therapists covering Flintshire and Wrexham, have based themselves within the area’s GP clusters to provide earlier access for patients, as part of a project supported by the Bevan Commission. 

Occupational therapists are health care professionals who work with people of all ages with various health issues, to help them live better with disabilities, injuries, or illnesses. 

The team of therapists has aligned with 87% of practices in Wrexham and Flintshire, and the referral treatment time for an Occupational Therapist on average has been reduced to 1.5 days from 10 days, and urgent referral rates have reduced to on average 2.5 a week from 6.5 a week. 

Heather McNaught, Clinical Lead for Occupational Therapy Physical Services in the East of BCUHB, said: “During the pandemic we had to stop routine appointments, so we took the opportunity to improve how we work with primary care services and offer our patients more timely care. 

“We met with GPs across Wrexham and Flintshire to identify their patients' needs, priorities and resources available, and we found if we based ourselves in the practices we could work directly with GPs and be more accessible for our patients. 

“Allowing Occupational Therapist’s to be physically present within the practices ensured referrals are generated earlier, before patients functionally decline or any further issues arise. 

“The Occupational Therapy team have been a perfect example of embracing a positive change in practice to meet the needs of our population.”  

The second phase of the project will look at how the therapists can help manage patient conditions with early intervention to help reduce pressures of patients attending primary and secondary care. 

The aim will be the delivery of preventative intervention sessions with patients in primary care services to ensure that they are able to achieve maximum health and wellbeing e.g. frailty, condition management, anxiety management and falls risk education/ prevention. Through engagement, the patient will be in greater control of their health and wellbeing needs and assume the expert patient role. 

Heather added: “This will support a reduction in the need for services, as the patient will have a greater understanding of their condition and how to manage it, avoiding unnecessary medical escalation. Through engagement with the Occupational Therapy team, a patient will also be able to escalate any changes to their needs sooner, thus avoiding crisis associated with functional decline or carer breakdown. 

“The ultimate vision for the realignment of community Occupational Therapy services was to reduce the total impact on secondary care services through promotion of health and lifestyle skills, enable adaptation to disability and chronic ill health, to enable independent functioning or reduce care burden, condition management and crisis avoidance.”