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Providing occupational therapy from a distance

As Occupational Therapists at Saint Francis Hospice, our aim has always been to promote people’s independence, wellbeing and quality of life.

Claire Smart - Occupational Therapist

We usually see people either in their own homes or in the Hospice and run a variety of groups and interventions to support people. I had only been working at the Hospice for a short number of weeks before the coronavirus pandemic started and I have seen a huge change to the way that I am now working.


The coronavirus has significantly impacted on my role; we are no longer able to see people at home and our groups have been postponed to maintain the safety of our patients. It has been difficult to accept these changes resulting from lockdown, as we want to continue to provide a high level of service to our patients. However, we are determined to continue to find innovative new ways to support people during this crisis and help to maintain their quality of life. It is important to us to be able to continue to meet the needs of our patients whilst they are at home and our new way of working is allowing us to achieve this.


As Occupational therapists, we have been completing assessments over the phone and using digital methods to help with those assessments, allowing us to provide support, advice and equipment safely from a distance. This has been a new challenge but has been working very well; it is bringing us closer together with patients and their families during this uncertain time and allowing for a holistic and collaborative approach to working. We have also developed online resources to support people, including advice on fatigue management and breathlessness, so that people can self-manage their symptoms at home. In addition to printed resources, we have also started virtual group sessions for fatigue and breathlessness management which we complete on Zoom. Our pilot sessions have been very successful and allow patients to interact with staff and each other to discuss their symptoms and learn strategies to self-manage at home. Now that we know these new ways of working have been successful, they can be taken forward in the future to continue to enhance the work we do.


A popular intervention has also been to produce activity packs for patients both at home and on our ward. Completing daily, meaningful occupation is important for people’s mental health and wellbeing and our packs are filled with puzzles, mindfulness colouring pictures and quiz questions to occupy the mind. We hope these packs will provide a welcome distraction for people that they will enjoy and have been sending them out regularly until people can begin to attend our Hospice services again.