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The children’s occupational therapy department based at St Mary's Hospital provides therapy to infants and children on the acute paediatric wards and the neonatal units at St Mary's and Queen Charlotte's & Chelsea Hospital. Occupational therapy is key to safe discharge from the paediatric wards.

Our acute paediatric therapists are highly skilled in neurological and upper limb assessment and intervention and have experience of working in tertiary centres of excellence. Our neonatal therapist is one of only three professionals in the UK trained in the Assessment of Preterm Infant Behavior (APIB), a hands-on assessment. Other specialist assessments and interventions available are Newborn Individualised Developmental Care and Assessment Program (NIDCAP), Prechtl General Movements and the Newborn Behavioural Assessment Scale (NBAS). Our neonatal therapist is currently a member of the group writing European standards for developmental care as part of the European Federation for Care of the Newborn Infant (EFCNI) and is contributing to new guidelines for occupational therapy on neonatal units as part of a sub-group of the College of Occupational Therapists.

Conditions and treatments

We work with all infants and children who have challenges with everyday activities, learning and development on the paediatric wards and neonatal units. Working within the multidisciplinary team, we provide rehabilitation for children who are waiting for a specialist rehabilitation centre. Our therapists are highly trained in a number of specialist areas such as upper limb function, preterm development and sensory processing. We assess all areas of function and development.

The service provides assessment and intervention for infants and children who have challenges with everyday activities as a result of illness, injury or pre-existing condition:

  • self-care e.g. eating, dressing, bathing and toileting
  • learning and development
  • play and social interaction
  • use of upper limb including splinting
  • productivity e.g. school skills such as writing, using scissors and drawing
  • accessing the home, community or school environment 

Our interventions may include provision of equipment for use on the ward, cognitive and play programmes, splinting, and modification of the ward and home environment. A small stock of equipment is available on loan on a short-term basis to facilitate discharge home. The occupational therapists liaise with the child's community team for provision of equipment for long-term use, adaptations to the home environment and ongoing occupational therapy input in the community.

Our neonatal therapists are highly skilled in preterm infant behaviour and neurological development in the preterm period. The occupational therapists work with each family and multidisciplinary team to provide developmentally appropriate experiences through adaptation of the environment and caregiving, thus supporting the infant's developing brain. We complete the two-year developmental checks for babies born before 30 weeks’ gestation and for those treated for hypoxic ischaemic encephalopathy (HIE) and participate in the neurology multidisciplinary clinic appointments as needed.

Additional information

Education and elective placements

The paediatric occupational therapy service is dedicated to the ongoing education of students and provides clinical placements to three universities. These are arranged via the central placement system.

GP referrals

Please note, we do not accept referrals from GPs. This service is primarily for inpatients.