Like a Mars bar, an OT a day helps you work, rest and play

Rosie Shrubbs (left) and colleagues at the DGH Occupational Therapy team.
Rosie Shrubbs (left) and colleagues at the DGH Occupational Therapy team.
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THERE are many ways to ingratiate yourself to a journalist.

A never-ending supply of tea and biscuits during home visits. Free tickets to concerts. A box of mince pies at Christmas. The list is endless.

Right up there with the best of them though is free chocolate. And that exactly is what the delightfully named Rosy Shrubbs is armed with as I arrive to meet the DGH’s Occupational Therapy (OT) team.

But, as I am quickly told, there is a message behind it. And it isn’t that NHS staff will do anything for good press.

“You could say we are a bit like a Mars bar,” she explains. “An OT a day helps you work, rest and play.”

A catchy slogan to be sure, but one which only scratches the surface of the mountain of work done by a surprisingly small team or little more than a dozen.

Surgeons may stitch people, doctors may diagnose but in a large number of cases, the patients would not be going anywhere if it was not for the OT team, well, OT’ing.

Staff meet with patients who are likely to experience mobility and independence issues as a result of their conditions almost as soon as they are through the door.

Patients are set goals, given a realistic view on how well they can expect to recover and, once they are on the mend, given support in returning to their home, their own bed a nice cup of non-hospital tea.

Such is the variety of the OT day job that despite spending a morning with the team, most of what they do remains alien to me. Left for another feature on another day.

What I do get a first-hand insight into though is the hugely positive affect their help can have on a patient.

Rosy whisks me off to visit Sylvia Knapman who has just spent the best part of a year in bed due to crippling back pain.

She estimates she has spent two to three weeks a year in hospital for certainly the last few years, maybe longer, but is fiercely determined to keep her independence.

And that means she needs help. She needs the OT Team.

Lying in her front room, laptop within easy reach, TV on at the end of her bed and her beloved cat just an extended paw away, Sylvia could not, given her condition, be happier.

“The help they [OT] have given me is brilliant,” she says, aiming a genuinely thankful smile in Rosy’s direction.

“When you are feeling really bad it is nice to be in hospital but then you want to come back to your own room.

“You just feel better than being on a ward with other people you don’t really know.

“The OT team has helped me so much.

“I have a specialist bed which I was given two weeks ago and am getting used to and rails to help me in the bathroom.

“All these little things which they have had done make such a huge difference to my life.

“It gives me a spirit of independence.

“You may not be completely independent but if you have that spirit of independence that is a wonderful thing.”

Sylvia also benefits from visiting cares and a joined up approach by the OT’s and social services is vital in making sure she can not only remain in her own home, but do so without struggling necessarily with pain.

Rosy and her team monitor their patient’s initially on discharge to ensure recommendations are in place and working. In fact, even as we are leaving, Rosy points out a troublesome she has already flagged up to the county council.

Back at the DGH Rosy offers up a cup of tea. But, like the Mars, it isn’t bribery.

Having heard such a glowing reference from Sylvia it would be next to impossible not to enthuse about the job being done by OT – with or without light refreshments.

No, it is another example of what the team does.

The department is kitted out with a two fold kitchen. One half is ‘standard’ height while the other mirrors the same appliances, but at wheelchair level.

The room is a place where patients can be assessed and practice making a meal or hot drink trying new techniques or equipment

“We ask people to come in and make us a cup of tea or coffee,” explains Rosy.

“It is to see what someone is capable of doing on their own and what they can’t quite manage.

“Once we find out what challenges them we can then work out ways round it. It might be we have to fill the kettle for them, leave a flask or all manner of things.

“Our job is about problem solving. Finding ways to help people be as independent as they can and want to be.

“We listen to what people want and then work with them to achieve it.

“Our work is not about finding out what people can’t do. It is about finding out what they can.”

That seems as good a line as any to sum up the sterling work of Rosy and her colleagues: “It is about finding out what people can do.”

And, thanks to the team’s advice and support, people often leave the DGH finding they can do an awful lot more than even they realised.