The first national Allied Health Professionals Day has been welcomed by
the mental health trust serving all of Norfolk and Suffolk.
AHPs are the third biggest group of practitioners in England’s health and
social care system – after doctors and nurses – and Norfolk and Suffolk NHS
Foundation Trust (NSFT) employs 280 of them.
The aim of AHPs Day on Monday (15 October) is to celebrate AHP professions and
the contribution they make to delivering high quality health and social care.
Lindsey Lovatt, NSFT’s Allied Health Professional Lead, said the Trust’s AHPs
were a diverse group of practitioners covering the full spectrum of life from
perinatal care to older people with mental ill health.
• 158 occupational therapists
(OTs) and assistants
• 81 AHPs using core skills in
generic / alternative roles
• 23 arts therapists (art
psychotherapists, music therapists, drama therapists, dance
movement psychotherapists and play therapists)
• 10 physiotherapists
• 4 dietitians
• 4 speech and language
Mrs Lovatt, who is an OT by background, said AHPs deliver high-quality care by
carrying out assessment, diagnosis, treatment and discharge, and are crucial to
a patient’s recovery and quality of life.
“For years, the Health Service has, quite rightly, celebrated Nurses’ Day on 12
May – Florence Nightingale’s birthday – and I welcome an opportunity to do
something similar for AHPs,” she said.
“I’m hoping the day will help increase public awareness of AHPs and
understanding of their roles and how they can be used more in the workforce.
“The expertise and range of care this group offers is immense which is why it’s
vital that we make the most of their skills for the benefit of our service
Mrs Lovatt said she was passionate about representing a group of professionals
who have so much to offer. She will mark AHPs Day by giving a Skype broadcast
to staff, who will have a chance to ask her questions.
Dawn Collins, NSFT Director of Nursing, Quality and Patient Safety, said most
people associated AHPs as working with physical healthcare but they play an
equally important role in mental healthcare.
“Examples of AHPs within NSFT include speech therapists might work with someone
with communication difficulties within learning disabilities or autism
services, while dietitians can help those with eating disorders, or patients
with obesity or malnutrition issues, both of which are a big problem within all
mental health services,” she said.
“You will also find occupational therapists working within most mental health
services, where they use planned focused activities to help service users to
find recovery and independence.
“Physiotherapists will work with people with mobility issues which may be
impacting their mental health, while arts therapists, including art, drama,
dance and music psychotherapists and play therapists, can help people who may
find it difficult to communicate verbally to express themselves through the
different creative mediums."
NSFT’s AHPs, their professional colleagues and service users have been
developing the Trust’s AHP strategy which will be launched at a conference next
Caption: Lindsey Lovatt, NSFT Allied Health Professional Lead
Case study 1: Sam Gromitt, Dietitian, Great Yarmouth and Waveney
Community Eating Disorders Service
“I’ve been with the service since it started as a pilot in 2009. Two years
later, it was formally launched as a service for adults and in 2014 it also
began to support children – anyone under the age of 18.
“I really enjoy my job. After leaving school, I had a variety of jobs,
including working as a window dresser in John Lewis, but I always had an
interest in food and nutrition. I started my dietetics degree in my late 20s,
qualifying when I was 33 and then working for four years as a dietitian at
James Paget Hospital before joining the Great Yarmouth and Waveney Community
Eating Disorders Service.
“It’s a very challenging job. For example, it’s hard when I’m trying to help a
teenager who doesn’t want to come and see me or engage in any way with the
eating disorders service. I regard this as a challenge rather than a problem,
and I try to find ways to build up a relationship with a service user, but it
can take a long time to build trust.
“We’re one of only a handful of community eating disorders services supporting
adults and children, and the main issues we deal with are anorexia nervosa,
bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder.
“I work as part of a team and my role is to support service users by meeting
their individual needs, usually on a one-to-one basis but sometimes involving a
service user’s family. The team covers the whole of the Great Yarmouth and
Waveney patch – not just Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft, but as far south as
Halesworth and Southwold, to Bungay in the west and Winterton to the north –
and I see service users in clinic, in their school or college, in their
workplace, in their homes or at GP surgeries.
“There is greater awareness now of eating disorders and we sometimes see
children who are still at primary school. It’s best to get involved before they
become very unwell because that makes a good outcome more likely.
“Some of the adults I support are in their 40s and 50s and have had an eating
disorder since they were teenagers, which was a time when there was very little
help available for them. I sometimes go with them on supermarket tours so that
they can look at food choices and labelling on food.
“As well as supporting service users on school visits, such as by assessing
their social eating abilities, I also provide training to any professional
involved in caring for a person with an eating disorder.
“In addition, I work closely with staff at the Norfolk and Norwich and James
Paget hospitals when service users end up there because of physical health
issues. I liaise with the paediatric and adult wards and go into the hospitals
to support staff, including their dietitians, and to train them.
“I’m really happy doing what I do now, but I’d like the service to develop
further so that, for example, we can start to meet the physical healthcare
needs of our service users.”
* Sam advised that anyone who thinks they may have an eating disorder or who is
caring for a loved one who they suspect has an eating disorder should contact
Case study 2: Maggie Batchelar, Art Psychotherapist, Woodlands unit,
Over the past decade, there has been an increasing recognition of the valuable
role the arts can play in improving wellbeing. The Department of Health has
acknowledged the “major contribution” which arts can make to health, while the
National Alliance for the Arts in Health has supported a wide variety of arts
initiatives which have been designed to improve emotional and mental health.
This includes participatory arts programmes, arts on prescription, art
installations in healthcare environments and state registered arts
The movement has been welcomed by Maggie, who has worked as an art therapist
for 26 years, largely with people experiencing mental health problems. She has
spent the past 15 years in NSFT’s acute inpatient services in Ipswich, where
she has seen the significant impact that art can make on individuals' recovery
“I see people discover or re-discover a curiosity in art making and in their
own creative potential in all aspects of life,” she said. “Making art is one of
the oldest human resources and there is evidence of art making in all cultures.
It involves the capacity for imagination, dreaming and playing. It’s important
for us as individuals and as communities, so I value art-making as inherently
helpful for anyone who is willing and curious, regardless of ability.”
Maggie became an art therapist after completing an MA in art psychotherapy at
the University of Sheffield following a BA hons in fine art in Newcastle upon
Tyne. At the Trust’s Woodlands unit on the site of Ipswich Hospital, she works
across the inpatient services, including the PICU, an adult acute ward and the
later life inpatient services.
“Art therapy can enable people to make personal connections with their artwork
as a way of exploring and communicating their experiences and story, which may
entail expressing distressing and confusing issues,” she said. “I often
find that people feel more at ease when art making alongside others and it is an
opportunity to gently begin to build a therapeutic relationship."
In her role in the Woodlands’ inpatient wards, Maggie offers art therapy both
in individual sessions and in open groups where patients are welcome to come
for any length of time to explore the range of art materials available.
She explained: “Whilst some people have skills or interest in art making as
adults, many people haven’t made art since school, so I invite people to be
curious and to try materials. Art can help people feel calmer, more focused and
often leads gently into a conversation about themselves and their experiences”.
When Maggie meets patients on the wards who engage with art making, she often
signposts them to local community arts and wellbeing resources, such as ‘Art in
Mind’ and the ‘Inside Out Community’. This can help patients’ recovery pathways
following admission, supporting an ongoing opportunity for creativity,
fostering meaning, hope and feeling more connected with others. Social
isolation can be one of the most debilitating factors for many people
experiencing mental health problems.
“It’s a humbling and inspiring job to work alongside people at these
difficult and distressing times in their lives and I am lucky to be working
with some really visionary people at NSFT who support the movement towards
meaningful art experiences being a really important part of recovery for many."
Case study 3: Dorothea Whilems, Speech and Language Therapist, Bury St
A bilingual upbringing and a family history of dyslexia are two factors which
Dorothea Whilems suspects may have predisposed her to an interest in speech and
language, but it wasn’t until she was about 40 that she decided to make a
career of it.
By that point, she had done various jobs, including working for more than 16
years in the education and events department of London’s Natural History
“I completed a number of arts-based Open University courses, including an
English language course which included an element of linguistics but, much to
my surprise, a module about how children acquire speech interested and inspired
me the most.” she said.
“The course included a short introduction to phonetics, which I hadn’t even
heard of until then, and it revealed to me the fascinating complexity that
underlies the skills of speech and language which we take for granted every
“After a two-day taster course about speech and language therapy as a career,
my path was set. I graduated from a four-year BSc honours degree at City
University in London, which had a particular emphasis on clinical practice, in
2006 when I was 44.
“I wanted to work with people who have learning disabilities, which is
something of a specialist area in speech and language therapy, and that’s what
I’ve been doing for the past 10 years in Suffolk, first based in Walker Close
in Ipswich and now Hospital Road, Bury St Edmunds.
“I support adults from the age of 18 upwards all over west Suffolk but very
little of my work is done in clinic because for a person with a learning
disability the setting they are in has such a significant effect on their
ability to communicate. Seeing my clients in a clinic setting would not give a
true picture of their needs. Therefore, I go out to assess a service user and
to observe them in their work placements, or with their families or in their
supported living home settings.
“The aim of my involvement is to help service users achieve their maximum
potential for communication. This often involves designing person-specific
systems, which may include pictures and symbols, signing, using an electronic
communication aid or app, to help them communicate more effectively.
“There can be misunderstanding about speech and language therapy. Sometimes,
people think it’s about teaching the service user to talk properly or to use
more socially acceptable behaviours but someone with a learning disability
can’t just be ‘fixed’. It is far more likely that I will be aiming to fix the
misconception about the person’s communication skills and teaching those people
supporting service users how to communicate appropriately with them and how to
offer meaningful opportunities for the person to express themselves and make
their own choices and decisions.
“My role also involves supporting colleagues in partner agencies so that people
with learning disabilities can access the same health and care services as
anyone else – improving health and wellbeing and reducing health inequalities.”
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