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News from Member Organisations September 2023 - United Kingdom

At the Royal College of Occupational Therapists (RCOT) we have been very focused on workforce. Over the last 12 months we have been considering the current position of the occupational therapy workforce, trying to understand where we are now and where we need to be in the future to meet demographic and service need.

To do this we have carried out a series of 10 workforce summits and an education summit, bringing in occupational therapists from all areas of practice, managers and commissioners of services to consider current challenges and what we should stop doing, continue to do and start doing differently. Key themes from these workshops mirror what we found in our workforce survey.

Occupational therapists retain their passion for the profession and would recommend it to others as a career, but services are experiencing high demand and people are presenting with greater complexity of need. There continues to be tension between occupational therapists delivering occupation centred interventions and carrying out generic tasks. This sense of needing to fill in the gaps within services is high due to other parts of the health and care system being overstretched and shortages of staff, such as nurses. Furthermore, new roles and opportunities are opening to occupational therapists, for example within perinatal mental health, intensive care and public health services. Whilst exciting and good news for the profession this is putting further strain on a finite resource.

We also held roundtables with stakeholders in England, Scotland, Walea and Northern Ireland, these include national leads and representatives from government departments with responsibility for workforce to share our findings and discuss ways forward to ensure the profession is positioned to offer best value to people needing their services, but also occupational therapists feel valued and have rewarding careers.

It is a very challenging time for occupational therapists working in the national health service and in social care, but it is also an opportunity to reflect on where we add the most value, and how we might innovate practice.

So, we are now embarking on a second round of virtual workforce events working with our members and stakeholders to develop tools and real world examples demonstrating best value deployment of occupational therapy, supporting new registrants in their early career (final year of a pre-registration occupational therapy degree and first 3 years in practice) and developing our occupational therapy support workforce.

All the learning from the past 12 months is also shaping our first ever workforce strategy due to be published in 2024. And we would be really interested to hear from other countries how they are driving workforce growth and innovation. Please contact [email protected]