Investigating the Potential Contribution of Occupational Therapy to Mind in West Essex
Executive Summary Mind in West Essex (MIWE) is a third sector, primary mental health care organisation, that support people with mental health (MH) issues through various services (MIWE 2021a). Currently, access to occupational therapy in West Essex is limited to secondary care, contributing to a disconnection between stepped services. Increased integration of primary and secondary health care, early intervention, and overall improved MH services are current drivers for change in West Essex (Rate and Reay 2019; Kozlowska et al. 2018; Joint Commissioning Panel for Mental Health [JCPMH] 2012). Occupational engagement, and subsequently occupational therapy, can support MH; notably, by enabling social inclusion, preventing illness, and supporting employment (Royal College of Occupational Therapists [RCOT] 2017; Jacobs and Simon 2015). Therefore, this project aimed to investigate the potential benefits occupational therapy could bring to MIWE, using the current evidence base and in co-production with service users. The project came in two parts, starting with a literature review of 8 texts, investigating the role and efficacy of occupational therapy in MH settings; the resulting themes included the uniqueness of the role, the skills occupational therapists exhibit, and the interplay of occupation, community, and recovery. Secondly, semi-structured interviews with 3 service users explored how occupation featured in MIWE; how MIWE supports them; and positive responses to the project. These two sections were then synthesised, producing the following themes: the potential for community enablement through occupation; possible employment support; a place for occupation within the service; and occupational therapy being a suitable fit for MIWE. The findings are particularly pertinent when considered in line with the National Health Service (NHS) West Essex Local Delivery Plan for Adult Mental Health Services, regarding the potential for supporting primary care network expansion; increasing preventative MH care and early intervention; and building resilient communities (Rate and Reay 2019). To vi maintain sustainability, a summarised report for all staff and service users, and a copy of the full report, are intended for MIWE’s ongoing use. Though additional interviews and research may be required, overall, this project demonstrates the positive potential for introducing occupational therapy to MIWE.