Individuals can contact the College of Occupational Therapists Specialist Section--Independent Practice (COTSS-IP) via a free Telephone Enquiry Line. This article evaluates data from 4342 telephone calls made to this national service during 2002-2006, primarily from callers seeking to engage COTSS-IP members' services. Most calls came from prospective clients and/or their families or friends, residential care homes and National Health Service trusts. Assessment, treatment, adaptive equipment and/or home adaptations were most frequently sought, most often for young people or older adults with physical or learning disabilities within the Greater London area. The implications for occupational therapy practice, education and workforce planning are outlined.
Key words: Clinical practice, independent practice.
Independent (that is, non-statutory service) occupational therapy practice has been largely underinvestigated to date (Steele-Smith and Armstrong 2001, Eyres and Wenborn 2002, Sloggett et al 2003, Duggan et al 2007, Hopkins-Rosseel and Roulston 2007), restricting current knowledge about unmet service need in this area. Such knowledge is vital to future occupational therapy practice, education and workforce planning.
Bristow (2006) sought to shed further light on this area by evaluating two resources established by the College of Occupational Therapists Specialist Section--Independent Practice * (COTSS-IP). The first of these resources is an internet-based directory, reached via the COTSS-IP website (www.cotip.co.uk). This directory advertises the contact and service details of the independent occupational therapy practitioner members who pay to subscribe. The second resource is a free 24-hour telephone number, the COTSS-IP
Telephone Enquiry Line (0800 389 4873). Calls to this line are answered within 24 hours by an administrator, or an experienced independent occupational therapy practitioner, as appropriate. This brief practice evaluation article reports data from the second of these resources, obtained between May 2002 and May 2006, in answer to the following questions:
* How many calls were made to the above telephone line?
* What was the nature of these calls?
* How many of these calls sought services for clients?
* What was the nature of the client-related calls made?
The information underpinning this article was initially recorded onto Microsoft Excel spreadsheets by successive COTSS-IP administrators. It reflected 22 items collected from client-related enquiries and 17 items from other call types. Additional qualitative data came from telephone conversations held, and answerphone messages received, in response to the initial enquiries made. These data were coded to support statistical analysis using the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS 2005) for the purposes of this article, with the following results. Although enquirers' confidentiality was maintained administratively (Data Protection Act 1998), this is a practice evaluation and formal research-related ethical considerations do not therefore apply.
Nature of telephone calls received
The calls received by the above enquiry line between 1 May 2002 and 31 May 2006 are shown in Fig. 1.
[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]
Almost half of the 4342 calls received sought to employ independent occupational therapy practitioners (n = 2083, 48%), with more than a fifth of the rest coming from occupational therapists exploring such work (n = 914, 21%). COTSS-IP members generated a few other calls (n = 257, 6%). The remainder of the calls were either general in nature or uncategorisable (that is, inappropriate, repeated and /or unclear).
This article focuses on the calls received from callers seeking to employ independent occupational therapy practitioners. The following analyses are based on 1718 calls received between 1 July 2002 and 16 September 2005, the period for which the most detailed data are available.
Although callers were not formally asked for their relationship to the person for whom they sought independent occupational therapy practitioners' advice or services, most such callers were prospective clients, their relatives and /or friends (n = 1163, 68%). Many other agencies also called on the behalf of prospective clients, as shown in Fig. 2.
Many of the 555 (32%) telephone enquiries received from sources other than clients, their relatives and /or friends came from residential care homes, National Health Service trusts and legal firms. Voluntary organisations and charities also generated relatively large numbers of calls. 'Other' callers came from such diverse sources as local authorities (n = 26); rehabilitation (n = 27), health care (n = 18) and education (n = 26) providers; adaptive equipment suppliers (n = 23); housing associations (n = 19); disability information services (n = 17); professional bodies (n = 11); and the media (n = 11).
Nature of enquiries received by services sought
Almost all callers (n = …