As of March 2012, there were approximately 10 000 AHPs working in acute and primary care settings across NHSScotland. There were also around 500 AHP practitioners in social care, predominantly occupational therapists who, despite comprising only 1% of the total social care workforce, addressed 35% of all adult referrals.
Scotland's AHPs are already working at the leading edge of a paradigmatic shift in the public sector towards enablement and personalisation, promoting an asset-based approach, self-management, resilience and independent living and preventing over-reliance on hospitals and professional intervention.
AHPs' expertise in rehabilitation and enablement will be key to supporting the vision of health and social care integration and delivering on the nationally agreed outcomes for integration.
Reducing inappropriate admissions and unnecessary care costs are key to affordable and sustainable services in the future. AHP interventions can significantly reduce unnecessary admissions to hospital and diminish dependency on care services, resulting in significant savings in health and social care.
As first-point-of-contact practitioners, AHPs also make a vital contribution to faster diagnostics and earlier interventions in primary care. They work closely with general practitioners and community teams to provide alternative pathways to secondary care referral and prevent admissions in areas such as falls prevention and musculoskeletal services.
AHPs have a key contribution to make to the wider public health agenda, improving health and well-being by, for example, promoting physical activity and healthy nutrition, providing cancer prevention and vocational rehabilitation services, and enabling children to get the best possible start in life and achieve their full potential.
AHP directors and AHP leaders, working across health and social care, will be key to enhancing the AHP contribution to the joint planning and delivery of services, particularly for those with complex needs, long-term conditions, dementia and for children and young people.
This National Delivery Plan for the Allied Health Professions in Scotland calls for AHPs to be more visible, accountable and impact orientated. It aligns the AHP focus on delivery with the nationally agreed outcomes for integration, currently in development, and reflects the context of health and social care integration.
Better measurement, data collection and e-health will be required to support AHPs in contributing to the delivery of these national outcomes, to underpin improvement and to strengthen efficiency and productivity.
Modern, innovative and flexible working practices (including exploiting technology) and implementation of Releasing Time to Care and other improvement methodologies will be key to efficient and effective service delivery built around the needs of people who use services and to releasing capacity within existing resources.
NHS boards and local authorities will work collaboratively to develop local implementation plans identifying how they intend to deliver and evidence the outcomes of the National Delivery Plan. The Chief Health Professions Officer will lead annual reviews of the local implementation plans to monitor local progress and to support delivery nationally.
Email: Angela Worth