Cumbria Crack

Occupational Therapists are helping Appleby residents stay independent

Gillian Robertson

[A] new way of working is being trialled in Appleby Medical Practice to increase independence in frail and older patients.

Occupational therapists (OT) are working from the local GP surgery three times a week to increase independence and provide more care in the community.

The pilot has already seen great results and has had positive feedback from patients. Jane McChesney was one of the first patients to use the service following mobility issues caused by pulmonary hypertension, a condition that affects the heart.

“The service has been absolutely fantastic. I’ve had practical support to help me manage at home with daily tasks such as washing and getting out in the garden, but the emotional support has done me the world of good too. Gill is just a phone call away if I need her and knowing that I only have to travel to the GP surgery makes it so much easier to get the help I need.”

OT Gill Robertson, from Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust (CPFT), is working within Appleby Medical Practice. Being based in the health centre means that patients can be seen quicker and closer to home, and problems can be addressed before they develop into anything more serious.

Gill explained: “Being in the practice allows me to empower patients to self-manage their health conditions and also reduces pressures on the GPs. It’s an innovative way of working and I feel privileged to have this opportunity to try something new.

“I see patients with problems such as loss of confidence, loss of motivation, visual impairment, cognitive impairment, low mood and social isolation but the list really is endless.”

Occupational Therapists provide practical support to help people overcome barriers that prevent them from doing the activities that matter to them.

This helps to increase a person’s independence and maintain their dignity and satisfaction in all aspects of life. It could be essential day to day tasks such as getting dressed, work related activities or leisure and hobbies.

This new way of working also aims to ease pressure on GPs and has been well received within the practice. Dr Gillian Bell added: “This has been a useful and valuable addition to our practice and the service we are offering our patients at a local level. It has been wonderful to see the difference it has already made.”

Appleby is one of only a handful of practices in the UK where Occupational Therapists are based within a GP practice. Janet Folland, Professional Lead for Occupational Therapy, commented: “We’re seeing some really innovative practice in Cumbria and the results are fantastic. By working with communities and looking at how we can deliver care that meets their local needs we’re making a real difference to patients.”

This work forms part of the Eden Integrated Care Community (ICC) which sees teams across health and care working closer together to improve the health and wellbeing of local people. Angie Reynolds, ICC Manager for Eden, explained: “We are introducing new ways of working through the ICCs to put patients at the centre of their care. This new service allows us to provide care closer to home and treat patients early.”