Occupational Therapy is keeping people well in Brighton and Hove

Occupational therapists in Brighton and Hove are playing a pivotal role supporting people with their mental health and wellbeing during the coronavirus outbreak.

The Occupational Therapy (OT) Team at Mill View Hospital in Hove, which is run by Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, has had to come up with new and innovative ways to provide vital support at this challenging time, both in inpatient services and in the community. 

Occupational therapy is about taking a 'whole person' approach to healthcare, looking at both the physical and mental wellbeing of individuals and providing practical support to help them overcome barriers that might prevent them from carrying out the activities they would like to. 

The restrictions imposed by the outbreak of COVID-19 have created additional barriers for many people but OTs are well placed to come up with creative solutions to help people navigate this challenging time. 

Sussex Partnership provides mental health and learning disability services across Sussex and Hampshire, and employs 238 occupational therapists across its services. 

Aisling Butler, Occupational Therapist at Mill View Hospital explains: "We have created individual activity packs for people on our wards to help them keep occupied while observing social distancing rules. It is important that we help people feel connected, especially in this time where we may be physically distant from loved ones. In our resource packs we have included things like creative activities, links to online resources and apps including to links to places like zoos and other public attractions that are doing live feeds and tours, and live streamed workouts."

Service users are also being encouraged to make the most of the therapeutic garden space at the hospital. Spending time in the garden can help people reconnect to the calm of nature and enjoying activities such as seed planting and drawing the plants that are outside can help people to focus and relax. 

Aisling says, "We have also put together packs for patients who are being discharged; this can be a tough time for people under normal circumstances, and even more so now. In addition to the activity resources, our discharge packs include some of the lovely donations people have given us such as hot drink sachets, sweet treats and essentials like soap and flannels. "

The OT team is  developing an adapted COVID19 leaflet for people living with dementia in the community, their carers and families. This includes information around hand washing, social distancing, staying well and lots of enjoyable activity resources.  

Claire Michie, Lead Clinical Specialist Occupational Therapist says: "Our wards are currently unable to receive visitors so we are helping to facilitate skype calls between services users and their loved ones. We are really grateful to the League of Friends who have granted us some money to purchase additional resources such as MP3 players, personal DVD players and radios and art materials. These items will make a huge difference, particularly to those patients needing to self-isolate in their room, which can be extremely difficult for someone experiencing acute mental health difficulties.  Being able to offer meaningful activity and entertainment will help to alleviate boredom and distress. 

"Our local community have been simply amazing, donating and delivering cakes, food, jigsaws, toiletries, books and other activities for our service users. We have also been really grateful to receive treats for our staff, who are working so hard every day to provide the very best possible care for our patients."t

The specific work around COVID-19 is in addition to the normal day to day work of the OT teams who are continuing their one to one work with patients where they look at either meaningful activity they would like to do to work towards their recovery and discharge, or around distraction and coping strategies to use on the ward or at home. 

For more information about how you can take care of your mental wellbeing during this difficult time please click here.

To support our service users and staff, our NHS charity Heads On is raising funds to create care packages. You can find out more and donate here.