Report recommends occupational therapists are included on Shortage Occupation List

If the recommendation is accepted by government, measures would make it easier to recruit OTs out of European Economic Area

Published on 4th June 2019

The Migration Advisory Service has recommended measures that would make it easier to recruit people from outside the European Economic Area to become occupational therapists.

The Migration Advisory Committee recommends which jobs are added to the Shortage Occupation List (SOL), making it easier to recruit people from outside the European Economic Area if their professions are difficult to recruit to.

Occupational therapists have never appeared on the SOL.

However, in a report, the Migration Advisory Service said: "We recommend including SOC code (2222) occupational therapists on the SOL. There is significant stakeholder evidence of recruitment difficulties, including a significant workforce report published by London South Bank University. The occupation ranked 19th in the shortage indicators and the vacancy rate is above average (despite a fall in recent years). Overall, quantitative evidence combined with the significant stakeholder evidence suggest that this occupation should be included on the SOL."

The Royal College of Occupational Therapists has lobbied for the profession to be added to the list as vacancy rates are as high as 40 per cent in some areas, with the Midlands, East of England and London the worst hit. Rural areas that are far from universities and mental health services have also struggled to recruit.

The report said that many NHS trusts gave evidence of a shortage of occupational therapists as well as sector representatives.

Furthermore, the report highlighted "a significant report on the workforce of occupational therapists in London" which was published in December 2016 by authors at London South Bank University. They carried out an extensive information gathering exercise surveying the London occupational therapy workforce and presented vacancy rate by different bands which included 20 per cent vacancy rate at Band 6 and 14 per cent at Band 8a.

In addition, data from NHS Digital on vacancies in occupational therapy show consistently high levels of vacancies over the past few years. There were 1287 advertised full-time equivalent vacancies between April 2005 and June 2015 which had increased to 1446 between January 2018 and March 2018.

"These increasing vacancy numbers correspond with our stakeholder evidence who nearly all tell us too much competition for occupational therapists are making it difficult to hire," said the Migration Advisory Committee.

This is the first time the list has been reviewed since 2013 and several other professions have been added to the list for the first time.
Social workers have been on the SOL since 2009. The government is now considering its response.

Karin Bishop, RCOT assistant director of professional practice, said: "We are calling on the government to take forward the committee’s recommendation to safeguard the health and wellbeing of the public and their ability to live independently. Without access to the type of proactive preventative care that occupational therapists provide, more people will undoubtedly ‘overflow’ into already overstretched A&E departments or GP surgeries. This is worse for patients and more expensive for the NHS.

"We have heard from so many members who have struggled to meet the requirements to recruit from outside Europe, especially when meeting salary thresholds, which is why RCOT has worked so hard to get occupational therapists added to the list," she concluded.

Full review of the shortage occupation list, May 2019


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