Caroline Dinenage, (third left) with the Tower Hamlets Together Team and RCOT CEO Julia Scott (second left)

The Royal College of Occupational Therapists and the Tower Hamlets Together team were delighted to welcome Caroline Dinenage MP to Mile End Hospital last week in a visit to showcase how occupational therapy-led services are improving the health and wellbeing of people in Tower Hamlets.

The visit was organised by RCOT following a conversation between RCOT Chief Executive Julia Scott and Ms Dinenage at an event last year organised by influential group Public Policy Projects and the Accountable Care Journal. During the conversation, Ms Dinenage revealed that occupational therapy had been a career option for her at school, so Ms Scott invited her to come and visit a service and see occupational therapy ‘in action.’

Julia greeted the Minister and introduced her to the Tower Hamlets Together team - Alex Hadayah, the service lead, several other occupational therapists - allied health professionals (AHPs) colleagues and senior managers.  Karin Orman, Lead Professional Adviser from RCOT was also at the visit.

The Minister heard how occupational therapy has been a key driver of significant health and wellbeing improvements in the Tower Hamlets community, supporting key work streams in areas such as keeping people out of hospital, supporting people with complex needs to live independently, and primary care. The occupational therapy approach, treating the whole person and enabling them to do the things that are important to them, has been pivotal to the culture change at Tower Hamlets - from ‘What’s the matter with me?’  to, ‘What matters to me.’

During the visit, the minister was somewhat upstaged by Kingston, a 'Canine Partner' dog, attending with his owner Jackie, who talked about how her life had been changed by having an open-minded OT who listened to what she felt she needed, and Kingston!

Commenting on the day, RCOT Chief Executive Julia Scott said: “We are delighted Ms Dinenage could take time out at such an incredibly busy time for government to come and visit us today. The recently published NHS Long Term Plan with a focus on prevention, supporting people at home and primary care will be enabled by services such as the one here in Tower Hamlets. As we await the Green Paper on Social Care, I hope she will take the message of the value of occupational therapy back to Westminster and share it with her colleagues in the Department for Health and Social Care. I am reassured that Ms Dinenage may still yet consider our profession as a career option should she ever decide to give up politics.”

Karin Orman, Lead Professional Adviser for RCOT added, “Occupational therapy spans across primary, secondary and community care, working with people of all ages and addressing mental and physical health and wellbeing.  Our Improving Lives Saving Money reports consistently demonstrate the value of occupational therapy in delivered person-centric health and social care. The fantastic team at Tower Hamlets are a great example of this and it’s been a delight to meet them here today.”

Minister for Care Caroline Dinenage said: “Occupational therapists are vital in helping people to fulfil their daily lives, by keeping them out of hospital and helping them to live independently at home. I’d like to thank the Royal College of Occupational Therapists for enabling me to see first-hand the brilliant work the Tower Hamlets Together team do to improve the wellbeing of their community.”

John Biggs, Mayor of Tower Hamlets said: “We are pleased to welcome Care Minister Caroline Dinenage to the borough to hear about our multi­agency work as part of Tower Hamlets Together, to deliver person centered care services which empower residents to lead more independent and healthier lives. 

Occupational therapists play a vital role in improving the mental and physical wellbeing of people in Tower Hamlets and I am pleased that today’s visit demonstrates how invaluable the service is.”