'We're working on OT shortage' - NHS

I WELCOME the opportunity to respond to concerns raised by your readers about access to occupational therapy assessments (The Hunts Post, June 17). Firstly, I would like to apologise to those people who have experienced unacceptable waiting times. All ref

I WELCOME the opportunity to respond to concerns raised by your readers about access to occupational therapy assessments (The Hunts Post, June 17).

Firstly, I would like to apologise to those people who have experienced unacceptable waiting times. All referrals are assessed against three levels of clinical need, with those in most urgent need seen as priorities.

Every Huntingdonshire patient, adult or child, requiring an urgent assessment is seen by an occupational therapist within one to five days. While this does not lessen the understandable concern that those assessed as less urgent, who wait longer, experience, I hope it goes some way to reassuring your readers that those with the most urgent clinical needs are assessed in a speedy manner.

Two issues have contributed to the current situation. Referrals rates in Huntingdonshire have risen steeply in recent years; in the case of adults from 39 per month in May 2008 to 118 per month by May 2009.


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Many cases on our non-urgent waiting lists involve housing adaptations. Consent and funding for such adaptations involves a number of organisations, including local authorities and property landlords, as well as lengthy processes to gain planning consent and building regulations, all of which impact on the timescales involved in completing this work.

Investment has been targeted in the Huntingdonshire locality in recent years and, despite rises in referral rates, waiting times have reduced significantly in adult services. For the first time in recent years we are beginning to see a downward trend in the total number of children awaiting assessments.

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We are currently recruiting 2.5 full-time-equivalent occupational therapists to undertake adult assessments, and a further experienced children's occupational therapist joins us in September 2009. Saturday clinics for children's assessments were introduced earlier this year. These and other initiatives will continue to reduce waiting times.

We are committed to improving the unacceptable waiting times for non-urgent cases and are currently working with NHS Cambridgeshire to identify what would be required to reduce waiting times to the national 18-week standard by April 2010.

MATTHEW WINN

Managing director

Cambridgeshire Community Services

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