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The developing role of Therapy Assistants

Is progress being maintained on improving amputee rehabilitation at Bradford Hospital?

Is progress being maintained?
What problems have arisen?
The future
For more information contact



In the first issue of ImpAct (May 1999) we reported on an initiative to explore a new role for therapy assistants at Bradford Hospitals. The aim was to improve rehabilitation services for patients needing lower limb amputation. Given the acknowledged problems of maintaining innovations in the longer term we thought we'd revisit the work to see if progress was being maintained.

Is progress being maintained?


The key achievements of shorter length of stay and the amount of time spent in rehabilitation are being maintained. Several other important benefits have become evident as the initiative has developed. These concern relationships with patients and links with other agencies. Many of these benefits reflect the presence of the therapy assistants in the unit throughout their working day. This on-going contact with patients and carers means that they can develop a unique rapport. Duties of other staff (e.g. doctors, nurses and physiotherapists) mean that they may be away from the ward, or spend less time in direct contact with patients.

The therapy assistants thus provide a valuable channel for information from clinical staff to the patients and from patients to clinical staff. They have space and time to undertake urgent tasks when other people are busy or away from the unit. They can focus on the needs of patients and free qualified therapists to deliver other services. This continuity has helped to improve the focus on the needs of patients. Another important consequence has been improved links with Social Services and the Benefits Agency. The therapy assistants are able to ensure that information is passed on to the relevant discipline to facilitate early discharge.

What problems have arisen?


The appointment of therapy assistants has effectively proved to be a new way in to the NHS. There is little stability in the therapy assistant group. The three full time posts have been changed to two full time and two part-time posts to help respond to the level of turnover. Experience has shown that those appointed soon become ambitious for advancement in the NHS. There is a continuing turnover as those appointed move on to other roles (for example to start training in physiotherapy or nursing).

A new (ongoing) process to recruit and train therapy assistants has been developed by the hospital. This is partly to replace those who move on but also to fill other new posts as the role of therapy assistant has been extended in the hospital (see below).The appointment process provides briefing about what is involved (very important because the aim is to recruit people without clinical experience. Many don't know what to expect). It also ensures that those appointed are allocated to the most appropriate department in the hospital. All therapy assistants have a detailed two-week induction period.

The future


A number of factors have conspired to change the nature of the initiative in the amputee unit. The continuing high level turnover of other staff (doctors and nurses) is significant. Induction training has to make sure that new staff are clear about the role of therapy assistants. It has to overcome rigid traditional views of roles in the face of varying needs of individuals in a situation of little stability.

The initiative created a real buzz when it was first launched in 1996. Perhaps inevitably as the new becomes part of the routine service the buzz is no longer there. Some regret this, but there is a strong commitment to keep the process going. The new role is a real success.

For more information contact


Jill Gregson,
Physiotherapy Manager
Bradford Royal Infirmary, Duckworth Lane
Bradford BD9 6RJ

Tel 01274 364250
Fax 01274 366946


 

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