UNISON Scotland has surveyed our members working in occupational therapy across Scotland to assess their view of the current state, and future prospects for their service, how they are coping with the privatisations imposed by ‘austerity’ and how they feel about the future.
The picture that emerges is one of a dedicated but frustrated workforce wanting to deliver a service but finding it increasingly difficult to do so. Pressures on budgets and changes to service delivery mean that they are increasingly unable to deliver a service to the standard of which they are capable. Professional assessments are overruled, or recommendations overturned as they are unable to be met. Changes in service delivery either through reorganisation or the expansion of self-directed support mean increased levels of assessment and admin which reduce patient contact time.
Many OTs feel that their professional role and expertise is also under pressure, they are being expected to pick up tasks from social work. In addition to this there are areas where the delivery of specialist skills is no longer being required as only generic services are being delivered. There are complaints that moves towards more assessment based therapy aren’t being accompanied by resources which allow for rehabilitation meaning patients have to settle for a compensatory approach.
Lack of concern as to the impact that changes in other parts of the care system or NHS have on occupational therapy is highlighted as a concern. Frequently accompanied by the observation that failure to properly utilise OTs in the planning process undermines the effectiveness of change. This is seen in reports of instances where patients are discharged from hospital with inadequate OT consideration which results in readmission.
This is played out against a backdrop of the majority of the workforce finding that their own personal circumstances are becoming more difficult as inflation and minimal or absent pay rises eat away at the value of their wages.