Interviews with NELFT Occupational Therapists - following OT Week | News and events

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NELFT NHS Foundation Trust provides a range of  community health and mental health services across the north east London Boroughs of Barking and Dagenham, Havering, Redbridge and Waltham Forest, Essex and Kent and Medway

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Interviews with NELFT Occupational Therapists - following OT Week

Occupational Therapy Week ran from November 6-12 and NELFT staff were involved at events around the localities. We thought the awareness week was a great opportunity to speak to a couple of our OTs, in different roles and locations, and find out more about why they became OTs, their day to day workload and what benefits they have been able to bring to the lives of their patients.

We firstly spoke to Nick Bertram, who works in the management team in the MHS services and based at the Thorpe Coombe Hospital site in Waltham Forest.

Why did you become an OT?

I was looking for a change of career in my early twenties. I had been doing some work with individuals with learning disabilities and this led me to OT. I wanted a degree, a vocational qualification and practical skills that I could use alongside people. OT ticked all those boxes for me and I have not regretted it for one moment.

What’s your main role?

I job share the Joint Lead OT/Social Inclusion Lead for MHS with Barbara Armstrong. We both share the professional responsibilities for our OT staff which includes supporting recruitment/retention, ensuring clinical supervision is completed, co-ordinating/chairing our integrated WF ICD OT meeting (this brings all the OTs together from across our local NELFT services), service development, quality assurance, as well as dealing with any other issues related to OT within our services.

In addition to this, I lead on the health funded spot purchased placements for NELFT WF clients e.g. locked rehabilitation, residential care, supported living, early on-set dementia units, forensic step-downs and Barbara leads on the social inclusion and Employment, Education & Training for NELFT WF e.g. Recovery College, Coping Through Football project, JCP+ collaborative working, third sector organisation collaborative working, wellbeing/wellness initiatives, WF employment partnership meeting/workshops, coordinating/allocating work to employment workers within our Community Recovery Service.     

It must be rewarding seeing the health of a patient improve through your skills – can you give us an example of a patient you have seen and the benefits you have been able to bring to their life?

I remember when I was working in the assertive outreach team there was a client who would not open the door to us. The STR worker and myself continued to visit and communicate through the door, resolving some financial issues at first and working alongside the housing officer to share information as appropriate. Our goal at that stage was to ensure he didn’t lose his accommodation. Over a period of months and months he started to allow us into his flat. We then began working alongside him on areas of his life he wanted to improve – engaging with his family again in South London, organising his finances and finding more meaningful activities. We would visit him at home and also out ‘n’ about. His life admin improved and also his insight of the need to do this. He attended some community activities and kept his flat. He started to travel further afield too. I see him occasionally out in the community and we always say hello to each other. Finally he was transferred back to the Community Recovery Service.

When you are not working as an OT – what do you do to relax?

I have always enjoyed classic cars since I were a lad. We are down to three vehicles in my household at the moment, but I can often be seen under my cherry red 1967 Triumph Herald convertible tinkering away because there is always something wrong with it. The agony and the ecstasy of classic car ownership as I call it!  


We also heard from Lynda Anderson who works for the Community Learning Disabilities Team at Stour Road in Dagenham. Her team comprises of social workers, psychiatrists, psychologists, nurses, physiotherapists, SALT and administrators and helps patients across Barking and Dagenham.

Why did you become an OT?

I became an Occupational Therapist because I liked the ethos of an OT I worked with while working as a nurse. The OT was carrying out a moving and handling assessment; I thought that the way she spoke to the person was kind and knowledgeable. She also had time (although I knew she had 101 other things to do), she did not appear rushed. I wanted to be like that!

I love OT because it uses activity as the assessment tool and treatment; it is the only profession which does that, although others are following suit.

I also love OT because it is person centred and looks at individual goals.

OT is a diverse profession, I can work in physical health, mental health, learning disability, in social services or NHS, independently or in private practise; how cool is that?! 

OTs can belong to many specialist sections; I am part of the Learning Disability section although in the past I have been part of the moving and handling, housing and HOPE groups. They are great because you get updates and a sense of belonging to the OT world and support I ‘stuck’.

What’s your main role?

I work with people who have a learning disability, enabling independence in the home and community.

If the person is inactive I identify goals with the person so that they can carry out an activity that they want or need to do. I assist moving people along their journey, enabling them to live life to the full - whatever that looks like for the individual.

It must be rewarding seeing the health of a patient improve through your skills – can you give us an example of a patient you have seen and the benefits you have been able to bring to their life?

Over the years there have been many eventful, challenging and rewarding times.

I have worked with one client for a year or so, he was discharged to his home in supported living accommodation which was unsuitable due to lack of equipment, adaptations and staff training.

Assessing the person’s strengths and weaknesses, I identified the need for a ceiling track hoist; which was installed within 24 hours (with the help of social services), provided equipment such as slings and shower chair and recommended a level access shower. Also, training was provided to enable safe use of the equipment. This has enabled the person to remain at home for another year with his friends and support staff that he knows.

When you are not working as an OT – what do you do to relax?

Outside of work I am a crafter; I love to sew; mainly gifts; (bags, purses, and blankets) although I have made myself clothes in the past. I collect fabric, always promising to use it!

I enjoy walking at weekends with my husband mostly at Rainham Marshes, although we have branched out to other bird watching opportunities in Essex. As a family we attend church and often go out for dinner or go to the cinema.

Thanks to Nick and Lynda for their time and it was great to be able to support OT Week 2017.