Barnet Hospital rapid response teamA team at Barnet Hospital is breaking down the barriers between occupational therapists and physiotherapists to help emergency departments get patients home quicker. 

Patients requiring assessment before discharge from hospital usually have to be seen by both a physiotherapist and an occupational therapist (OT) before they can be cleared to go home. 

OTs will look at function and cognition, and carry out assessments in order to identify problems that might arise when the patient returns home. Physiotherapists will focus on mobility, musculoskeletal problems and respiratory issues.

However Barnet Hospital’s rapid response team, which deals primarily with emergency department patients, comprises physiotherapists and OTs who are each capable of performing both assessments at once, potentially halving the time a patient would have to wait before they are discharged.

Deborah Konu, one of the team’s lead physiotherapists, said: “It’s a specialty that has been developed to allow us to have quick discharges and respond to quick referrals. This is very important in A&E where you have a high turnover of patients. If a patient is ready to be discharged home it doesn’t matter if there’s an occupational therapist or physiotherapist available, as either one can assess them. 

“It’s a lot of learning on the job and developing your competencies. You have to be able to think on your feet. Our team is fairly experienced, as you need to be quite skilled in your own specialty before you can start taking on someone else’s.”

Georgia Harding, an OT lead with five years’ experience on the team, added: “To work in the team you have to be able to handle quite a lot of pressure. Working in A&E is very fast-paced with a very high turnover of patients. You need to be very flexible and quick to respond. 

“They also need good clinical reasoning and good knowledge of medical conditions. You need to be quite assertive and a really good communicator. 

“It can be a tough coming in, but you do have a very supportive team that provides a lot of dedicated supervision. 

“It also helps that the positive results are obvious; you can see immediately that this way of working helps get patients home faster safely.”

Notes to editors

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About the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust

The Royal Free began as a pioneering organisation and continues to play a leading role in the care of patients. Our mission is to provide world class expertise and local care. In the 21st century, the Royal Free London continues to lead improvements in healthcare.

The Royal Free London attracts patients from across the country and beyond to its specialist services in liver, kidney and bone marrow transplantation, haemophilia, renal, HIV, infectious diseases, plastic surgery, immunology, vascular surgery, cardiology, amyloidosis and scleroderma and we are a member of the academic health science partnership UCLPartners.

In July 2014 Barnet Hospital and Chase Farm Hospital became part of the Royal Free London.