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.”
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