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All you need to know about working as a Occupational Therapist in the UK

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What is an occupational therapist?

Occupational therapy, often referred to as OT, is a healthcare profession that focuses on developing, recovering, or maintaining the daily living and working skills of people with physical, mental, or cognitive impairments. An occupational therapist's job is to help people of all ages to overcome any permanent loss or lack of physical, sensory, mental or communication function.

Their aim is to help people improve their ability to function as independently as possible so that they can participate in whatever activities are meaningful and important to them. Occupational therapists do this mainly by identifying and eliminating environmental barriers to independence and participation in normal daily life.

Occupational therapists work with people of all ages and can look at all aspects of daily life in your home, school and workplace.

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As an occupational therapist, you will have fundamental responsibilities and job roles. These include:

  • Taking a 'whole person' approach to each patient's physical and mental wellbeing by considering all their needs – physical, social, psychological and environmental

  • Assessing, planning, implementing and evaluating treatment plans in hospital and community settings

  • Establishing realistic goals with the patient with meaningful outcomes

  • Liaising with other professionals, such as doctors, physiotherapists, social workers, equipment suppliers and architects, as well as patients' families, teachers, carers and employers

  • Keeping up-to-date written and electronic records

  • Writing reports and care plans and attend multidisciplinary case meetings to plan and review ongoing treatment referring patients to other specialists when needed

  • Organising support and rehabilitation groups for carers and clients

  • Contributing to the analysis, planning, audit, development and evaluation of clinical services

  • Training students and supervising the work of occupational therapy assistants

  • Managing a caseload, prioritising patient needs and completing administrative tasks such as patient and budgetary records.

Where can occupational therapists work?

Occupational therapists can work in a variety of workplaces, including:

  • Schools

  • Hospitals

  • Colleges and universities

  • Residential and nursing homes

  • Community centres

  • Job centres

  • GP surgeries

  • Prisons

  • Charities and voluntary organisations

  • Housing associations

  • Industrial and commercial organisations (including equipment manufacturers and architects)

  • Government bodies/councils etc.

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What qualifications does an occupational therapist need?

To practise as an OT in the UK, you must be registered with the Health & Care Professions Council (HCPC). To register, you must successfully complete an HCPC-approved pre-registration occupational therapy programme at either undergraduate or postgraduate level. All programmes are accredited by the Royal College of Occupational Therapists (RCOT)

If you have a relevant degree and healthcare experience, you may be eligible for a two-year accelerated postgraduate programme leading to either a postgraduate diploma in occupational therapy or an MSc in occupational therapy (pre-registration).

From September 2020, all pre-registration undergraduate and postgraduate occupational therapy students can receive funding support of at least £5,000 per year. There is up to £3,000 further funding available for eligible students. If you choose this option, you don't have to pay it back and are still able to access funding for tuition and maintenance loans from the Student Loans Company.

Desired skills and personality traits for an OT

  • Well-developed oral and verbal communication skills in order to develop a therapeutic relationship with your patients

  • Interpersonal skills to connect with others and develop a rapport with your patients

  • Compassion and empathy

  • The ability to explain, encourage and build confidence

  • Observation skills

  • The ability to think outside the box and work under pressure

  • Decision-making skills and the ability to organise and plan your workload

  • A flexible approach to work

  • Assessment and report writing skills

  • Problem-solving skills

  • Good creative and practical skills

  • Teamworking skills, as you'll often liaise with other professionals such as doctors and social workers

  • Enthusiasm, sensitivity and patience to deal with a range of needs

  • Computer literacy.

What is an occupational therapist’s salary?

Band 3

  • 1-year experience = £19,737

  • 1-2 years = £19,737

  • 2-3 years = £21,142

  • 3-4 years = £21,142

  • 4-5 years = £21,142

  • 5-6 years = £21,142

  • 6+ years = £21,142

(according to Agenda Change Pay Rates)

There is no specific qualification in order to qualify to higher bands, but to progress up the pay scale, you must show that you can effectively apply the required knowledge and skills.

With significant experience, you could become a consultant occupational therapist in a senior clinical leadership role with the highest level of clinical responsibility. Consultant occupational therapists work in a range of clinical practice areas, including mental health and learning disabilities. They have a wider role in influencing and driving strategic and organisational development.

When you're ready to take the next step in your career, read our guide on the most common occupational therapy interview questions and how to answer them so that you can make the very best impression in your job interviews. 

Working as a locum occupational therapist

The hourly pay rate for a locum occupational therapist is as follows:

  • Band 5: £18-£20 an hour

  • Band 6: £21 - £26 an hour

  • Band 7: £25 - £30 an hour

Working as a locum occupational therapist can differ to a full-time role in the following ways:

  • 3-6 month contracts usually in slightly different areas of OT each time.

  • Often asked to work slightly obscure hours. Weekends and evenings for enhanced rates.

  • High expectations on a locum to come in and hit the ground running without a huge amount of training and/or supervision

  • You can pick where you want to work and what area of OT you want to work in

  • This can be a career springboard

  • Gain experience using different computer systems and settings

  • Tend to avoid bureaucracy

How to become an occupational therapist

To work as an occupational therapist, you will need a relevant degree and healthcare experience recognised by the HCPC. You will also need to register with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC).

Search our occupational therapy jobs now to start your career with Maxxima.

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