Introduction: This English study is the first to focus on the contribution of occupational therapists to the work of community mental health teams for older people.
Method: A mixed methods study comprising: a national survey of community mental health team managers, caseload audit, qualitative interviews, and a practitioner survey; provided information on team membership and functions, user characteristics, accounts of occupational therapists’ roles and experiences, and work characteristics.
Findings: Occupational therapists worked mainly with people with dementia and were involved in both generic and specialist tasks, with the latter focusing largely on maintaining functionality. They had found ways to balance their roles for the benefit of the team without loss of professional identity. Some differences of opinion between clinical leads and occupational therapists were reported. Stress levels among occupational therapists were similar to those of professional colleagues.
Conclusion: Some findings contrast with earlier studies of community mental health teams for working age adults, offering new insights into the nature of the occupational therapists’ experience. To ensure that occupational therapists in these settings are able to contribute effectively, a shared understanding of their role is required between them and their clinical leads.