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50 years of Occupational Therapy education

29 January 2015

Princess Anne smiling with nursing staff standing and smiling behind

Fifty years of occupational therapy education in Wales, which has helped thousands of people living with health and social issues to get on with their everyday lives, will be officially celebrated today (Thursday 29th January).

HRH, The Princess Royal, Patron of the College of Occupational Therapists will join senior figures from the University's School of Healthcare Sciences and College of Occupational Therapists at all-day conference for alumni, lecturers, staff and students.

The conference will chronicle how far the profession has developed since it was first set up in Wales in 1964 and celebrate the vital contribution that occupational therapists play to people's health and well-being.

"We are delighted that HRH, The Princess Royal has agreed to join us and officially mark 50 years of occupational therapy education in Cardiff," said Dr Steven Whitcombe, Cardiff University's Professional Head of Occupational Therapy. 

"As Patron of the College of Occupational Therapists, The Princess Royal is a leading advocate for our profession and our vital work.

"We hope the event and our Royal visitor will help shine a light on our achievements and the benefits that occupational therapy plays for people in Wales, the UK, and the wider world," he added.

Julia Scott, Chief Executive of the College of Occupational Therapists said: "We are extremely proud of occupational therapy's history in Wales and Cardiff University's continuing commitment to excellence in occupational therapy education.

"I welcome the opportunity to meet some of our leading figures in occupational therapy who join us today to celebrate the achievements of students past and present. "

Occupational therapy provides support to people of all ages whose health may prevent them from getting on with their everyday lives.

Occupational therapists take a holistic approach offering practical solutions whether it's a child with a learning disability who needs help to read, right through to someone with chronic arthritis who experiences difficulties with everyday tasks and activities.

Occupational therapy education first began in Cardiff in September 1964. From humble beginnings in a small terraced property at the Cardiff Royal Infirmary it has grown to brand new state-of-the-art teaching facilities at the University Hospital of Wales.

Some 2,000 students have since graduated with occupational therapy degrees.

A key hallmark of occupational therapy education at Cardiff has been a 30-year history of using problem-based learning. Developing students' problem solving skills makes them better equipped to meet the needs of an increasingly complex health and social care environment, and translates importantly into practice by developing their professional confidence and competence.

Now that occupational therapy is part of the School of Healthcare Sciences, students are taught in a multi-disciplinary environment, ensuring that they learn early on to collaborate with other health professionals and making them more likely to work effectively together in clinical settings.

As well as hearing a series of speeches from past and present staff and students, HRH The Princess Royal will also get a chance to visit the School's facilities and see for herself the latest equipment and techniques and talk to staff, students and patients.

Dr Whitcombe adds: "As part of the day's celebrations we are looking forward to showing The Princess Royal our new occupational therapy children's clinic.

"Opened in 2014 and the first of its kind in Wales, it provides opportunities for the assessment and treatment of developmental disorders or handwriting difficulties, as well as a vital resource for our students."