#OTalk 13th October 2020 – Online groups: current occupational therapy practice

This weeks chat will be hosted by By Sam Pywell, @smileyfacehalo.

In the current world (due to COVID-19), it is possible that services where occupational therapists provide groupwork can face delivery restrictions due to social distancing, regional lockdown areas, shielding, and the personal choice a client has of wanting to engage in a group but not physically attend (perhaps due to caring for someone, or wanting to keep their bubble of exposure small).   Access to a physical space where the group and staff can socially distance may be a challenge.  Certain activities within a groupwork session e.g. messy crafts may not be possible due to difficulties with cleaning regimes.  Traditional face to face groups and groupwork may therefore not always be possible for a variety of reasons.   

Occupational therapists have the potential to deliver groupwork online depending on the individuals digital skills, access to training, equipment and access to platforms to name a few (NHS England, 2019; see @NESnmahp tweets on August 20 about “delivering digital groups”). Traditionally taught and delivered in a face to face setting, there is potential to mobilise occupational therapy groups either in part, as a whole or create a new group (e.g. to address the long covid population) online.  This could lead to additional innovate practice lead by occupational therapists for the benefit of our clients.  However, it cannot be assumed the client has the same digital access.  The clients digital skills, access to training equipment, platforms and reliable internet can all become barriers to access. It could be argued the therapists role is to explore this and enable access to the online group as well as providing the group itself. 

My interest in this area has come from delivering a module which contained groupwork, to include current practice due to COVID-19.  In order to connect pre-registration students, and colleagues who may have experienced F2F groupwork in the past, and to share best practice, the questions for this evening #OTalk are: 

1. what groups are occupational therapy staff running online now for which client groups (either as a result of COVID-19, prior to, or intend to run in the future)? 

2. what platforms are occupational therapy staff using and why? 

3. what are the barriers to running online groups? How can navigate these? 

4. what are the differences of a face to face group to a virtual group re: preparation and running? 

5. Under the NHS England (2020) and HEE (2020) definition of TECS: what would you define your group as (telehealth, telemedicine, teleconsultation etc) and why. 

6.What do you include in your risk assessment about the digital environment/ online groups (as if with F2F groupwork, you would have a risk assessment) 

By Sam Pywell, Lecturer in Occupational Therapy @ The University of Central Lancashire, Preston. #AHPsintoAction #digitalAHPs #mobilisethedigitalOT #UCLanOT @UCLanOT 


NHS England (2019) A digital framework for allied health professionals https://www.england.nhs.uk/publication/a-digital-framework-for-allied-health-professionals/ 

HEE (2020) Rapid Expansion of AHP placements: Simulation and Technology Enabled Care Services (TECS) webinar  

NHS England (2020) Technology Enabled Care Services (TECS) https://www.eng

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