The Royal College of Occupational Therapists is working in partnership with the James Lind Alliance to identify the research priorities for occupational therapy in the UK. The James Lind Alliance has developed a methodology that is based on a partnership between health and social care professionals, the people who use their services and their carers/families.
The project is guided by a Steering Group made up of occupational therapists, health and social care professionals, people with experience of accessing occupational therapy services and their carers.
Isaac Samuels (pictured), co-chair of the National Co-production Advisory Group at Think Local Act Personal, shared his thoughts on getting involved with this project.
Jenny Mac Donnell (pictured below) sent some questions to Isaac, who sent his response back as a sound file. Here is a transcript of their interaction.
What made you want to get involved in the Occupational Therapy Priority Setting Partnership?
For me, as someone with long term health and social care challenges, occupational therapy as a discipline or a profession, occupational therapists and occupational therapy interventions have been life-changing and really supported me in overcoming the challenges that I face. Occupational therapists have enabled me to have opportunities that my peers have like being in work, having a family life, going into education and maintaining my wellness.
You are an advocate of something called ‘co-production’, can you tell me some more about co-production as in what it is and why you think it is important?
Co-production is important because it offers an opportunity for experts by training and experts by experience or lived experience to come together and really think about overcoming some of the challenges that the health and social care system might create.
It brings together a group of people that can think about the best ways of overcoming an issue, what are the priorities, what are the challenges, what are the opportunities. Co-production is, for me, about power sharing, building relationships and working together to achieve something unique and wonderful. Because you have a group of people with a variety of experiences coming together and it’s just richer. It is really important because it saves time, reduces costs and ultimately comes up with a better product or a better experience so that people get the support they need.
What do you think that people who access occupational therapy services and their carers and/or family can add to the development of a research agenda?
People and their support networks and families really can get involved because the Royal College has created a space which is facilitated to help people get involved and really shape the research using their personal experiences to set the agenda. To look at what’s out there, what’s working well, what’s not working so well, what do we not know about and what do we have questions about. I think that really supports people’s understanding and really shifts the agenda and I think it really does make sure that research is fit for purpose because its based on what the profession and people that access OT interventions or OT support really need and want.
We are living through difficult times at the moment and people are worrying about COVID-19 and the challenges of lockdown. Do you think that setting the research agenda for occupational therapy is still important in this situation?
Yes, we are living through difficult times at the moment and people are worried about COVID-19 and the challenges of lockdown. It’s important that we focus on the future as well as the present and the research agenda is really important. We will one day be out of lockdown and the stuff that we are talking about in terms of priority setting and research will be really important for the future. Just because we’re in a space of challenge does not mean that we don’t plan and work towards something better.
I really do believe that we have an opportunity through setting the occupational therapy research agenda in this situation particularly because it basically has highlighted the lack of research in many areas, the lack of opportunity and experience. If we want a better future, we will most definitely use this research to create a better one.
What do you hope will be the eventual outcome of the Occupational Therapy Priority Setting Partnership?
I hope that the eventual outcome of the priority setting will be a list of priorities that will really shape the direction of travel for the profession, people who access their services and their families. It will really elevate some of the areas that need to be researched and identify some of the areas where we want the quality to improve.
What do you think will be the long term benefits of this project?
The long term benefits of this project will be an understanding across the board, from the sector, from people who use services and their families as to what the priorities are, what are the gaps. We really will try to plug those gaps in research and ultimately ensure that people access the best care because we’re pushing up standards and delivering wonderful opportunities.