• Wed. May 29th, 2024

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Sunderland’s small change finds big impact in Occupational Therapy

A multi-million pound investment in Occupational Therapy at the University of Sunderland will create an army of professionals dedicated to supporting service users with interventions that improve their daily lives.

The University now delivers a full cycle of health programmes from paramedic training and nursing to pharmacy, physiotherapy and medicine – and the new Occupational Therapy (OT) degree, which has just had its first intake of students, further complements Sunderland’s health and social care offer.

The investment in the course includes a fully functional independent living environment, a multi-media workshop and a suite of rehabilitation laboratories, the programme has also been approved by the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) and is accredited by the Royal College of Occupational Therapists (RCOT).

To mark the programme launch, the University is supporting National Occupational Therapy Week (Nov 4-10) which will focus on the theme: Small Change, Big Impact. The theme celebrates and champions the impact of OT on the lives of service users and the communities they live in.

“By supporting this national event, Sunderland is demonstrating that its small change was to introduce the new OT programme and the big impact of this will be the positive effect on our wider community,” explained Cath Turner, Senior Lecturer in OT at Sunderland.

“It’s really important for us to be part of this week and engage with the RCOT, drawing on their expertise and experience.”

She added: “This is an exciting and varied career and there is now a huge demand for an OT’s diverse range of skills as we look towards new approaches to better manage patients’ health and target innovative interventions.

“It’s about reducing hospital admissions, putting in place preventative measures though positive health promotion and our role is to keep people as independent as possible. We use interventions as a means to do that.”


Occupational therapy helps patients recover or develop skills needed for the activities of daily living, including self-care, leisure, independent living and work. Therapists work in a range of settings including hospitals, schools, nursing homes and with patients in their own homes. Patients who benefit from occupational therapy, include people who have had strokes, people with autism and other developmental disorders, people recovering from certain surgeries, people who experience from depression or anxiety, as well as veterans and the elderly.

Vice Chancellor Sir David Bell took a tour of the new facilities and met the students who will be the next generation of OTs.

He said: “Occupational therapy is a vitally important area of work, providing support and assistance to people right across our communities.

“At the University of Sunderland, we are delighted to be training the next generation of occupational therapists in superb new facilities. As a result, our graduates will go on to make a vital contribution to the health of the city and the region.”

Brett Lambert, Senior Lecturer, explained that the strength of Sunderland’s new programme is the inter-professional learning facilities the students have access to, including four simulation acute hospital wards, a simulation mental health / learning disability ward, patient diagnostic suite, two immersive simulation suites and multiple practical assessment suites.

The students also benefit from paid membership of the RCOT. As well as being taught by senior lecturers who maintain their professional practice through honorary contracts with local providers ensuring they are learning from academics who continue to be immersed in relevant and contemporary practice.

Cath Turner added: “So much investment has been made into this programme and the student will be the main beneficiaries. They will have the opportunity to learn in a really modern way and put this cutting-edge technology into everyday people’s lives and homes. They will have the opportunity to collaborate with physiotherapy, nursing (adult, mental health and learning disability), pharmacy, paramedic science, medicine, sports science, social work and psychology on campus.

“They can also access our excellent links with local placement providers including NHS Trusts, Local Authorities and a range of non-traditional and emerging providers.

For more information about National Occupational Therapy week (Nov 4-10), go to: https://www.rcot.co.uk/promoting-occupational-therapy/otweek

As part of the week, the University has organised a visit from the National Student Officer from the RCOT and will be running a joint session with a representative from the Sunderland branch of the Students’ Union, with a view to setting up an Occupational Therapy Student Society.