My practice – James Lampert

Performance indicators have helped James Lampert’s efforts to improve services for disabled and older people in east Kent

Anniversaries of some great events celebrated on 31 March included the opening of the Eiffel Tower (1889) and the installation of a television set at 10 Downing Street (1930). I’m hopeful that my great event for 31 March (which at the time of writing is still ahead of me) will be something to remember too. But I’ll come to that later.

The end of March is that time of year when the social care world produces the data for the Commission for Social Care Inspection’s performance assessment framework. Love them or hate them, if you work in social care you can’t get away from performance indicators (PIs). Kent  Council, as a three-star social services department, has to keep on improving if we want to keep those stars. 

One of the PIs that I’ve been involved in helping my team meet is the “acceptable waiting times for assessments”. It says that people should not wait longer than 28 days for an assessment to be completed. Over past years, it has been common for councils to have long waiting lists for occupational therapy assessments. 

The PI for acceptable waiting times has been a strong driver in recent years for councils to target these delays, allocate  resources and re-examine work processes to provide more efficient and timely services to disabled and older people.

My team’s mission is to ensure that disabled and older people in the Canterbury district can lead independent lives, using assistive equipment or adaptations. I want these people to receive a quality service from us at the time that’s right for them.

To make this happen, we’ve had to change some of the ways that we do things. The Occupational Therapy Bureau management team has led some of this change, with streamlined working processes being put in place. The culture of the occupational therapy teams is changing. Rather than “hand-holding” service users all the way through the process of arranging their housing adaptations, therapists are empowering people to take back some of that responsibility. 

We’re getting better, too, at acknowledging that our colleagues working for home improvement agencies and in district council housing departments can support users in arranging recommended work. 

By letting other people get on with work that doesn’t involve the core skills of an occupational therapist, it frees up professional time that can be better directed at assessing people more quickly.

We’re starting to use self-assessment for people with more basic needs, issuing some items of equipment after a telephone conversation, rather than making them wait for a home visit.

I hope the great event for 31 March will have been the celebration of the idea that we’re able to assess the needs of disabled people faster than we ever have before.

James Lampert is team leader, Occupational Therapy Bureau, Kent Council

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