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The Care Act – why it's so important for OTs

With an emphasis on 'joined up' health and social care, a working knowledge of the 2014 Care Act is useful to hospital occupational therapists as well as those working in the community.


More effective integration of health and social care is one of the key objectives of the Care Act which came into effect in April 2015. The Act aims not only to provide better care in the community, but also to improve coordination between hospitals and local authorities, which could help speed up hospital discharges and prevent bed blocking.

Before a patient is discharged from hospital, both the local council and the NHS trust have a legal duty to ensure that adequate arrangements for care and support are in place. With a vital role for occupational therapists in this process, familiarity with the legislation is important not just for OTs working in the community, but also those employed in hospital settings.

There are three areas of the Care Act that are particularly relevant to occupational therapists:

1. Prevention

Early intervention is one of the key strategies advocated by the Act. It's about being proactive and focusing on the individual's chosen goals or outcomes. For example, occupational therapists can make patients aware of how to maintain a healthy diet, as well astechniques for dealing with anxiety, fatigue and back pain.

2. Wellbeing

The concept of wellbeing is fundamental to the Act, in the same way as it is central to the occupational therapist role. Again the focus is on the patient's goals in their everyday life. Supporting them to achieve these goals may involve empowering them take part in work, education or training, or simply adapting their daily routines.

3. Safeguarding

The Act includes clear guidelines on safeguarding of adults, an area of care which often involves the input of occupational therapists to help ensure risks are managed effectively.
"Providing the right support after hospital is key," wrote Julia Skelton, Director of Professional Services for the College of Occupational Therapists (COT), in an article for The Guardian. "We have to understand someone's needs and goals when they return home, whether it's regaining the confidence to cook safely, use the stairs or visit a local club."

"As occupational therapists, our holistic approach embraces the relationship between occupation, health and wellbeing; enabling and empowering people to live their life to the fullest," says Alison Raw, the COT's Professional Adviser for Allied Health Professions. "It is this positive and solution-focused approach that makes occupational therapists fundamental to the successful implementation of the key principles of wellbeing and prevention which are intrinsic within the Act."

At the Occupational Therapy Show at Birmingham's NEC on 23 November, Legal Trainer and Consultant Michael Mandelstam will be giving a talk on the key parts of the Care Act relevant to occupational therapists. He'll be covering prevention, assessment, eligibility, equipment, adaptations and reablement, as well as talking about the importance of personalisation and flexibility in meeting people's needs. Booking details are available here.

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