More and more occupational therapists in the UK are now choosing to work in independent practice. This is often in response to the changing health and social care landscape, which is creating new demands for occupational therapists’ services outside the NHS and local authorities.
The growth of private and voluntary residential care for elderly and disabled people has created demand for occupational therapy services (e.g. staff training in dementia care, rehabilitation, or moving and handling techniques) for many different client groups.
With housing associations providing more and more specialist housing, independent occupational therapists now get involved in the design stage of new homes or providing assessments and advice on adapting existing housing. Or they may advise individuals or their relatives on how to adapt homes to meet the changing needs that come with age or disability.
There is a high demand for very specialised and experience paediatric occupational therapists to provide services for children with special needs.
Education authorities, schools or parents may commission an independent occupational therapist to prepare a report to support an education and/or health care plan or a legal Statements of Special Educational Need for an individual child.
Some independent occupational therapists also provide therapy services (which can range from help with handwriting for a dyspraxic child through to sensory integration therapy for a child on the autistic spectrum) for individual children or small groups within the classroom. Or they may advise teachers or help them develop a special needs curriculum.
Many independent occupational therapists provide services to solicitors and insurance companies, preparing reports and/or giving evidence in Court to help establish the cost implications of a person having to live with the long-term effects of a serious personal injury.
Independent occupational therapists are often appointed as case managers for people who need help with managing their lives after sustaining a serious injury such as brain or spinal damage. Case managers usually work with personal injury solicitors who are involved with injured people’s compensation claims, and their fees are usually paid out of the injured person’s compensation fund.
Some independent occupational therapists offer services to employers, in the shape of vocational rehabilitation for people who have acquired long-term conditions as a result of illness or injury. Other independent occupational therapists offer counselling or training workshops to help people develop strategies to manage workplace stress.
Watch some independent occupational therapists talk about their advice to newly independent occupational therapists: