Huge increase in demand for rehabilitation in the last six last months, RCOT survey finds

A survey by the Royal College of Occupational Therapists (RCOT) has found that its members have seen an 82% increase in demand for occupational therapy-led rehabilitation services in the UK over the last six months alone.

As the country begins to ‘live with COVID’, already overstretched, rehabilitation services have seen demand rocket over the past two years due to the COVID pandemic and are now seeing a further rapid increase in patients. The findings raise questions about the prospects of providing timely rehabilitation, for people recovering from short and long term illnesses, and need urgent support to live independently carry out their daily lives.

The survey, which over 550 occupational therapists working across the UK took part in, found that:

  • 84% are supporting people whose needs have become more complex due to delayed interventions arising from the pandemic
  • 82% of respondents noted increased demand for occupational therapy-led rehabilitation over the previous six months.
  • 71% of respondents felt there were not enough occupational therapists to meet demand.
  • 66% of respondents reported difficulties in delivering rehabilitation services due to reduced access to facilities, suitable space and equipment.
  • 50% are supporting people affected by Long Covid.

Commenting on the survey, RCOT Director of Practice and Innovation, Karin Orman said:

“It’s clear from this survey that rehabilitation services across the UK are overloaded, with the vast majority of occupational therapists seeing a huge increase in demand and complexity of their caseload over the last six months alone. This simply isn’t sustainable and there isn’t a big enough workforce to currently meet demand.

“Across the UK, health and social care leaders need to invest more in rehabilitation services and drive the recruitment of more occupational therapists as a matter of urgency. Not in a few years but now. As leaders of rehabilitation services, occupational therapists are a vital part of the solution to getting through the backlog of people needing intervention. The maths is simple – the quicker people have access to rehabilitation services, the better their chances at getting back to doing the things they need and love to do.”

Layla Moran MP, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Coronavirus, said:

“These new findings clearly show that the long-term impacts of the virus, including Long Covid, are exacerbating many of the challenges that occupational therapists are facing both in the NHS and beyond.

“Healthcare professionals are bearing the brunt of UK Government inaction and as long as Ministers bury their heads in the sand and refuse to address the growing Long Covid crisis, our economy and essential services will be under even greater strain. They must commit more money for research and funding, and recognise the condition as an occupational disease.”

The key results of the survey are attached:

  • We have a number of case studies of occupational therapists across the UK working in rehabilitation who are happy to talk with the media.