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Reflections of a Care Expert

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By Deanne Barrow Dip RCOT

My Professional Background I qualified as an occupational therapist (OT) in 1985 and have worked extensively in the NHS and Social Services since that time. Over the years I have been an integral part of various multi-disciplinary teams, working alongside doctors, nurses, physiotherapists, speech and language therapists, dieticians, social workers and architects amongst others. Since 2007, I have worked in the private sector for Tania Brown Ltd Case Management and Expert Witness Services. During this period, I have gained experience of working as a case manager in addition to undertaking my ongoing clinical role as an OT. Since 2008, I have also worked as an expert witness. In the thirty-four years since I qualified, I have gained a wealth of experience of undertaking functional assessments of people with a wide range of physical, cognitive and psychological issues. Assessing people from all backgrounds and in a wide variety of home environments from houseboats and caravans to grand manor houses and all things in between.

How Does My Experience Qualify Me to Comment on Care?

Extensive experience of undertaking functional assessments in clients home settings has provided me with a broad knowledge base which I am able to draw upon when preparing care reports for Court. I view my role as painting a picture for the Court of what life was like for the client before the index event, what has changed and what needs to be addressed to improve that persons quality of life and increase their independence wherever possible. Whilst training to be an occupational therapist, the importance of a holistic approach was emphasised repeatedly so that it became second nature to me and this has served me well. I now realise that our training back in the 1980 was ahead of its time in many ways as we learned how important it is for physical and mental health/wellbeing to be meaningfully occupied, to have goals and aspirations and to feel that you are making a contribution to society. Within the budgetary and time constraints of working within statutory services, it has been challenging to adhere to the principle of holistic assessment and treatment at times but within the private sector and particularly whilst working as an expert witness, the ability to look at all aspects of an individual’s life has come into its own.

What is the role of the OT Expert Witness?

The role of the occupational therapy expert witness is to provide information, clarification, opinion and impartial advice to the Court to enable them to come up with a fair and reasonable conclusion to all parties involved in a case.

Final Thoughts

I am regularly approached by OT colleagues who are interested in becoming an expert witness. I always advise that in addition to the obvious requirement of extensive clinical experience, they need to be passionate about report writing because the reports can be very lengthy and arduous at times. Dogged determination is needed to present a thorough, well-reasoned report, taking into account all of the available medical/psychiatric/psychological evidence. A love of presenting an argument on paper and orally is essential. If you have those qualities, I would highly recommend working as a care expert.

Deanne Barrow Dip RCOT

Deanne qualified as an occupational therapist in 1985. Since that time she has worked extensively in acute hospital and community settings taking sole responsibility for the management of a significant number of complex cases. E:deannebarrow@taniabrown.com W: www.taniabrown.com

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