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Mrs ARMITAGE (Launceston) - I would like to bring to the attention of the Council and put on the public record a letter that the member for Windermere and I received from two different constituents regarding occupational therapy and patient mental health services in the north and north-west. It says:

'As an occupational therapist living and/or working in Launceston in the mental health practice area, I am concerned at the recent decision to permanently remove the occupational therapy positions from the acute psychiatric inpatient wards in the North and North West of Tasmania.

I would like to express my grave concerns at this decision which cuts two critical occupational therapy positions in the North and North West, while no other clinical professions are removed from the Acute Mental Health teams. I would like to emphasise the specialist expertise that occupational therapists bring to mental health teams, particularly given the scarcity of therapists skilled in this area in Tasmania.

A decision to remove occupational therapy services from acute inpatient mental health would have severe implications for inpatient mental health consumers, the inpatient team and the service.

The focus of occupational therapy on occupation and engagement in fundamental life roles means that occupational therapy has a unique and vital contribution to the recovery and independence of people with mental illness. Occupational therapy provides individualised and group intervention to help people live with or recover from their illness and to participate in the community in meaningful life roles and activities. This is a unique approach that sets occupational therapy apart from other members of the multidisciplinary team and cannot be substituted. Occupational Therapy Australia is concerned about what alternatives will be available to inpatient mental health consumers if this role were to be removed

I fear that the loss of the unique role of occupational therapy in inpatient mental health services would have serious effects on patients and their families. It would:

Diminish support to consumers in the continuity of care to enable re-engagement and skill development for their successful return to everyday life in the community.

· Diminish the capacity of multidisciplinary teams through the loss of an occupational perspective, as well as the broader skills occupational therapists can offer;

· Diminish the service as it would be incomplete without the specific intervention occupational therapy provides.

Occupational therapy is an essential part of an inpatient mental health team to ensure safe discharge planning and minimisation of risk of readmission to the hospital.

As your constituent, I ask you to pass on my concerns to the Minister for Health and ask her to revisit this issue so that a permanent occupational therapy position is maintained in the acute mental health system.

I would also like to request that the Health Department review the decision making process for removing an occupational therapist from the inpatient mental health team, as this amounts to a reduction in occupational therapy services in the North and North West of Tasmania. The rationale to remove this core clinical position from the Acute Mental Health team has not been made clear, particularly when other non clinical roles will remain on the ward.

If the Health Department removes public access to the only occupational therapy services in the acute psychiatric inpatient units in the North and North West regions, I am concerned that the real cost of these decisions will be felt by those experiencing acute mental illness.'

It is signed by Lil Cox, occupational therapist and mental health practitioner who works under the Better Access to Mental Health Care Scheme in private practice in Launceston and Hayley Neilson, occupational therapist. Both are happy to have their names on record.

The Council adjourned at 6.03 p.m.

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