Occupational Therapy Students Forge Interagency Links between NHS Grampian and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service

In October 2014, two students from the BSc Occupational Therapy (OT) course at Robert Gordon University took part in an innovative, new practice placement. This involved the students working between the Community Adult Assessment and Rehabilitation Service (CAARS) at City Hospital and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) Central division. They had applied for the opportunity by writing a personal statement explaining why they felt the placement would be of benefit to their professional and personal development. The successful students were from the third and fourth year. The primary aim of this placement was for the students to help build a link between the two services by making SFRS staff more aware of the work Allied Health Professionals (AHP) were doing with people who were at risk of falling, and raising awareness among AHPs, of the services provided by SFRS around fire prevention. The level of referrals between services rose dramatically following the placements and both the students and the staff involved found it an enormously rewarding and beneficial learning experience. Patients benefited from an increased awareness among each group of staff, of what each agency offered in terms of assessment and provision of equipment. Those who might previously not have been identified as requiring a falls or fire safety assessment were now being referred between agencies.
Following the initial placements, feedback was gathered by one of the Practice Education Leads from NHS Education for Scotland, Julie Gillespie. This feedback played a crucial role in highlighting areas that needed further planning and helping staff make changes to improve the experiences offered during the placement. Subsequently, in preparation for further placements, OT staff spent time shadowing the SFRS Community Action Team (CAT) in their role and staff from CAT spent time shadowing OTs working in the community setting. This was a very valuable experience which demonstrated that new learning was certainly not restricted to students.

From Left to Right
Paul Morrison – Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, Community Action Team, Elaine Stewart – Lecturer in Occupational Therapy, Robert Gordon University, Monique Burgess – Occupational Therapy Student, Catriona Brown – Occupational Therapy Student, Sophie Dawson – Occupational Therapist and Janet Thompson – Occupational Therapist

In 2015 a second, similar placement was offered and third year students were encouraged to apply. The placement focused on identifying, screening and assessing people who were at risk of falling and, in keeping with Scottish Government Guidelines, a multi factorial falls screening tool was used to identify risk factors and formulate an action plan. As a direct result of the initial placements this now included identifying risk from fire, with referral on to the CAT as part of the action plan if necessary.

The students spent time in each area, developing an understanding of the links that exist between both services. They were able to take a role in delivering strength and balance exercise classes and helped deliver screening and assessment at the Falls Clinic with OT and Physiotherapy staff. During their time with the SFRS the students attended Aberdeen Community Safety Partnership HUB meetings, linking up with partner organisations, and took part in Home Fire Safety Visits (HFSV) with the CAT.

It was quite evident that the knowledge and skills developed by the students while working with CAARS, was transferred into the work they undertook with the Fire Service, raising awareness of the role of Occupational Therapy, the importance of falls screening and assessment and the many different initiatives that are currently being developed in this area. Likewise the students brought an enhanced understanding of services delivered by the SFRS enabling referral of appropriate patients and facilitating greater interagency collaboration. Importantly patients/service users benefited as a result of this collaboration. As part of their placement the students designed and produced a checklist, highlighting the key areas of concern to the CAT during a home fire safety visit. The aim being that this checklist will act as a prompt to community staff during domiciliary visits.
Statistics gathered by the SFRS indicate that OT staff, based at City Hospital, have referred 90 patients for HFSVs since October 2014. Of these referrals 85% of visits resulted in intervention from SFRS.

We would recommend that all health and social care staff who provide a domiciliary service to patients consider using the checklist to identify patients who would benefit from a home fire safety visit.

If you would like more information about the checklist or about student placements, please contact Janet Thompson – 01224-558399, jthompson3@nhs.net

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