Budget cuts leave occupational therapy posts unfilled as referrals rise

Occupational therapists (OTs) make up 2% of the adult social services workforce but are responsible for around 40% of referrals, illustrating just how vital their expertise is. But cuts to council budgets are putting them under increasing pressure as vacancies are left unfilled and waiting lists for services increase. National figures show that the number of OT posts in adult social care in England fell by 4% in the year to September 2015. And in London, 18% of vacancies for experienced OT practitioners in adult and children’s services are being left unfilled. Harold Bodmer, president of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services and director of adult services for Norfolk county council, says: “Some of that is down to the cuts. What we are trying very hard to do is to put occupational therapy expertise to best use, so that some of their work can be done by other people with OTs overseeing them.”

Julia Skelton, director of professional operations at the College of Occupational Therapists, says the figures speak for themselves: “OTs are working very hard to keep the waiting lists for assessments down. When you consider we make up 2% of the workforce and take 40% of referrals, the figures say everything.”

The picture is similar in the NHS. Some parts of the UK which historically find it hard to recruit – rural Lincolnshire and the north of Scotland – are still struggling to fill posts across the board. In London, NHS trusts are seeing nearly 20% of their band 6 posts left vacant – these are qualified OTs with around two years’ experience, who make up the largest OT group. Most of these vacancies are in acute care, particularly mental health.

Full story in The Guardian 28 June 2016