OT founder awarded NHS Scotland AHP Careers Fellowship to explore neuroaffirming practice

Callum MacKinnon (Founder – bounceOT) has worked as a Specialist Occupational Therapist in NHS Fife alongside running the social enterprise since July 2022. Having recently completed a pilot project to help develop an Adult Neurodevelopmental Pathway in NHS Fife, Callum applied to secure funding for a 12 month Fellowship with NES – NHS Education for Scotland.

He is delighted to have been awarded funding for 1.5 days per week, for up to 12 months, to work on a specific project alongside a colleague Ursula (Speech & Language Therapist – NHS Lothian).

The Project

Originally, Callum had applied to understand what neurodivergent people need to participate, and thrive, within group environments – particularly within Occupational Therapy group interventions.

Title: Coproducing a neurodiversity affirming approach to facilitating groups for Occupational Therapists working in mental health services

However, NES wanted to combine Callum & Ursula’s initial project applications as they appeared to be similar.

Now, the project is all about making sure supports from healthcare professionals and services are truly neuro-affirming.

A co-production project with neurodivergent adults across NHS Lothian & NHS Fife to explore what is neuro-affirming practice, and what can services do to be neuro-affirming.

The Purpose

Explore the views of neurodivergent adults in relation to:

  1. What are the communication, sensory, occupational and environmental needs and preferences of neurodivergent adults [in context of accessing health services?]
  2. What supports are needed [by services] to ensure neurodivergent adults can successfully engage with health services?

The Rationale:

Nationally, there needs to be better processes to meet the support needs of people with neurodevelopmental (ND) conditions – particularly in mental health services where referrals are overwhelming.

ND affirming practice is everyones business (Curnow et al. 2023) – but often it can be hard to know how best to help, or where to start.


Mental Health & Wellbeing Strategy (June 2023)

  • A need for a stronger focus on prevention and early intervention.
  • Supporting person-centred approaches.
  • Placing mental health and wellbeing on an equal footing with physical health.
  • A need for increased community-based support and services.
  • Growing the workforce – developing a skilled and diverse mental health and wellbeing workforce.

NAIT – National Autism Implementation Team (2023)

  • Strengths-based and neurodiversity affirming language as best practice.
  • Neurodivergent people to be included in the planning, decision making about service developments and/or co-production.
  • First line interventions should focus on environmental adaptations – not medication.
    This includes psycho-education, support to understand how being neurodivergent affects people, and meet others with shared experiences.

National Health & Wellbeing Outcomes for Health & Social Care

  • People are able to look after and improve their own health and wellbeing and live in good health.

Anticipated Project Outcomes:

  1. Highlight the need for all health and social care staff, across all sectors, to be more ND affirming as a workforce; like the trauma-informed model.
  2. Encourage others – including the public – to consider how they can be more inclusive.

Potential Stages of the Project:

Service evaluations…

Explore and research different methodologies of co-production…

Information gathered from both health boards will be collated identifying key themes. From this, guidelines will be drawn up with neurodiverse adults around ‘what is neuro affirming.’ These guidelines will be reviewed alongside experts by experience, then piloted within joint OT/ SLT groups and evaluated…

The guidance will be shared with current team/service…

Work closely with NAIT, Autism Initiatives/ Fife One Stop Shop, local HSCP’s & other third sector to explore how this guidance can be developed into visuals/animations/ posters etc.
By the end of the Fellowship, initial resources can be shared between professional networks and promoted via online platforms & sharing information by presenting at team meetings, Universities, conferences and more…

How will being an AHP Fellow provide a career development opportunity for you?
Explain how you will benefit from the Fellowship to enhance your practice and future career

[Callum] I have strong experience leading teams and managing projects having founded an OT-focused social enterprise in 2017. This is still in existence today with my role primarily overseeing the management and growth of the business.

Furthermore, I have successfully obtained a Post Graduate Certificate in Sensory Integration from Sheffield Hallam University, and a Post Graduate Diploma in Advancing Practice in Occupational Therapy from Queen Margaret University.

However, from completing a SWOT analysis, I am aware that I require development opportunities in:

 The ‘strategy’ or ‘how to get there’ re: achieving my vision(s)
 Specialist clinical skills in ND
 Research/evaluation and measuring change (then communicating this succinctly)
 Coproduction

I am motivated to progress into an Advanced Specialist OT role – specifically in the field of ND.

I believe the Fellowship will allow me time and resource to work on the areas identified from the SWOT analysis. Overall, I will excel at a Band 6 level and acquire the skills to successfully step into an Advanced Specialist role in the future.

Callum’s Career Development Learning Outcomes:

Leadership Pillar

Display creativity and leadership in exploring, and implementing, possible solutions to problems and evaluating their effectiveness.

Expand my network within the specialist clinical ND field – attend clinical forums, network meetings, and reach out to meet with other professionals working across NHS Scotland.

Improve my skills communicating complex information to a range of audiences, adapting to context and purpose.

Clinical Practice Pillar

Learn about coproduction, how to improve my skills, and how to support the implementation of this in practice.

Develop critical analysis and evaluation skills – critically evaluate ND clinical practice and research to inform my clinical reasoning.

Empower patients to share decision making.

Work autonomously, assuming responsibility to facilitate and promote person-centred practice.

Facilitating Learning Pillar

Join the Scottish Coproduction Network and other relevant communities of practice.

Access “Have We Got Coproduction For You” and other relevant resources.

Demonstrate ongoing reflective practice skills and complete a learning needs analysis.

Participate in Clinical Supervision and facilitation of learning with the short-life Steering Group.

Research/Evaluation/Service Improvement Pillar

Use a wide range of Quality Improvement (QI) & research tools.

Liaise with QI team and Participation & Engagement Team throughout the Fellowship to help measure, then evaluate the success of, change.

Disseminate information and communicate complex information appropriately – e.g. sharing my Fellowship journey with OT teams, other colleagues, services & students within NHS Fife & across other health boards.

Additional drivers –

Public Health Domain/ Priority area for Public Health in Scotland

Addressing wider determinants of health and wellbeing to reduce inequalities
Health Improvement e.g. supporting behaviour change, capacity building for resilience
Population healthcare e.g. universal services, rehabilitation, recovery and reablement
A Scotland where we stay in vibrant, healthy and safe places and communities
A Scotland where we have good mental health and wellbeing
A Scotland where we have a sustainable, inclusive economy with equality of outcomes for all

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