Presentation T O4

T O4 (Oral Presentation):
Why don’t UK occupational therapists communicate with the employers of patients with musculoskeletal conditions?

Presented by: Carol Coole

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Coole C1, Birks E1, Watson PJ2, Drummond A1

  1. University of Nottingham, UK
  2. University of Leicester, UK



In the UK, many people with musculoskeletal conditions rely on healthcare practitioners for work-related advice and support. Healthcare practitioners are acknowledged as having an important role in preventing job loss and maintaining healthy work. Good communication between healthcare practitioners and employers is considered vital in facilitating work retention and return to work, but previous studies have reported this is often lacking. UK occupational therapists would seem ideally placed to advise and treat patients with musculoskeletal conditions with regard to work. However, little is known about their experiences of liaising with employers and their perceptions of the factors which hinder or facilitate communication.


A questionnaire survey was sent to 279 UK occupational therapists treating employed patients with musculoskeletal conditions. Qualitative data were collected from the responses to ten statements/open questions and analysed thematically.


A total of 649 comments were made by 143 respondents who had experience of communicating with patients’ employers. Five themes were associated with communicating with employers: 1. patient-dependent factors (e.g. ability to self-manage, willingness to involve/inform their employer) 2. employer-dependent (e.g. willingness of the employer to involve the therapist, the employer’s understanding of the health condition) 3.therapist-dependent (e.g. confidence in skills, concerns about jeopardising patients’ job security) 4. extrinsic factors (e.g. resources, institutional and managerial support available to therapists) 5.methods of communication (e.g. advantages and disadvantages of written reports, meetings and workplace visits).


Communication between UK occupational therapists and patients’ employers is influenced by a number of factors. These need to be acknowledged and addressed by therapists, their professional organisation, employers, commissioners, therapy service managers, educators and employees in order for occupational therapists to better support return-to-work and work retention of people with musculoskeletal conditions.

Schedule Details

Tuesday September 30
10:45 - 12:15 Morning Concurrent Sessions (T O1 - T O12 and Seminar 4)
Session: Healthcare providers’ interventions II
Room B