by Tim Lezard A UNISON report shows Scotland’s occupational therapists are struggling to maintain the level of service their patients need in light of budget cuts and staffing shortages. Those surveyed in the report – Under Pressure: Scotland’s occupat …

Tim Lezard

UNISON Scotlandby Tim Lezard

A UNISON report shows Scotland’s occupational therapists are struggling to maintain the level of service their patients need in light of budget cuts and staffing shortages.

Those surveyed in the report – Under Pressure: Scotland’s occupational therapists speak out – said they had huge concerns about the impact cuts are having on the service. An overwhelming majority (82%) reported increased workloads, 60% reported having to cope with reduced members of staff and almost half (48%) reported funding cuts.

There were recurring themes among the concerns: assessments being overruled because of resource pressures; and failure by management to replace absent colleagues, specifically for maternity leave which, given the virtually all-female composition of the workforce, is more common than in many other groups of staff. When asked if they regularly worked more than their contracted hours 60% of respondents said they did – an extra five hours a week was the average. While the majority (58%) of respondents reported their standard of living had dropped in the last 3-4 years.

Some of the views included:

·         “Staffing has gone down in the last few years but the same level of service is expected. You begin to dread someone saying they are pregnant because you know you will be left really short during mat leave which is an unpleasant feeling because you want to be pleased for people’s good news.”

·         “Senior managers are now scrutinising OT recommendations and refusing some, despite a qualified OT having made the clinical decision that equipment or adaptations are required to meet the client’s needs.”

·         “Everything costs more but pay doesn’t match the increase. I have to be careful to only buy essentials when shopping.”

Sandra Dee Masson, an occupational therapist and vice chair of UNISON Scotland’s Health Committee, said: “Occupational therapy plays a vital role and yet isn’t taken into account when planning services and looking forward to patient care. Failing to properly utilise occupational therapists in the planning process completely undermines the effectiveness of change, there are instances where patients are discharged from hospital with inadequate OT consideration which results in readmission.

“Better investment in and coordination with occupational therapists would not only improve the patient journey, but it would improve outcomes, deliver better value for public money and improve the working lives of a dedicated group of workers who are very definitely under pressure.”

Dave Watson, UNISON’s head of bargaining and campaigns, said: “The picture that emerges from this report 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 they are increasingly unable to deliver a service to the standard of which they are capable. Workforce demand is increasing while the workforce itself is diminishing.

“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.”


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Tim Lezard

Campaigning journalist, editor of @Union_NewsUK, NUJ exec member; lover of cricket, football, cycling, theatre and dodgy punk bands

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