Sheffield Occupational Therapist honoured by HRH Princess Anne

The purpose of the research, led by Natalie Jones, was to explore the complex phenomenon of eating difficulties six months post stroke. The research found that as well as physical disability other barriers to managing eating include social, environmental, and emotional issues

Natalie Jones, second from left, meets Her Royal Highness, Princess Anne at the College of Occupational Therapists’ national conference

An occupational therapist from Sheffield Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has been given the royal seal of approval after Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal presented her with a top award at the College of Occupational Therapists national conference. Natalie Jones, a Clinical Services Manager in Acute Therapy Services at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals, won the UK Occupational Therapy Research Foundation Award in recognition of her pioneering research with stroke survivors.

She was one of nine Occupational Therapists from the Trust showcasing innovative projects at the national Occupational Therapy conference, which this year celebrated 30 years of Her Royal Highness Princess Anne as the College’s patron. This year the conference was attended by a record-breaking 1,500 professionals working in the field.

The National College of Occupational Therapists gives clinical therapists the chance to learn about innovative practice elsewhere but also share their knowledge, skills and learning internationally.

Jones’s research, funded by a prestigious National Institute for Health Research Clinical Fellowship, used disposable cameras to document the lived experiences of stroke survivors so that barriers to daily living could be overcome. As a result, a number of practical measures were introduced to help stroke survivors undertake everyday tasks that most take for granted such as eating, gripping utensils and cooking. Examples included adapting cutlery with sponge hair rollers so that they were easier to grip and using a spiked vegetable board to peel vegetables.

‘To win this award at any time would have been fantastic but to do so in this special year and in the presence of Her Royal Highness Princess Anne was simply overwhelming,’ Jones said. ‘I would like to take this opportunity to thank the stroke survivors who helped with my research, and the fantastic opportunity given to me by the NIHR and the University of Sheffield to begin my research career.’

Professor Mark Cobb, the Clinical Director who leads on research for the Combined Community and Acute Care Group at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, commented: ‘Occupational Therapy is a profession well placed to understand the patient experience and develop new approaches, so I’m delighted that such a wealth of innovative projects from the Trust were represented on the national stage and highlighted as being at the forefront of patient care.’

Other key findings presented by the Trust included: an occupational therapy project supporting the health and well-being of staff which has helped staff members return to work more quickly following sickness absence; how early interventions by an occupational therapist in primary and acute care hospital settings can reduce functional decline associated with frailty, such as when an older person has a fall and how reconceptualising pain empowers patients to identify meaningful self-management strategies.