UKOTRF research priorities

Recommendations for research activity for occupational therapy in the UK.

The priority areas for occupational therapy research are detailed in the College publication Building the Evidence for Occupational Therapy: Priorities for Research:


Effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of occupational therapy interventions

The effectiveness of occupation-focused interventions continues to be the major priority identified by occupational therapists for research activity. Establishing effectiveness, in terms of a measurable result that can inform future practice, is closely linked to:

  • the use of standardised assessments and outcome measures in the context of service provision; and
  • cost-effectiveness studies to support the commissioning of occupation focused services


Occupation, health and wellbeing

Targeted research activity should be used to increase our understanding of the causal relationship between occupation, health and wellbeing. This will enable occupational therapists to access the evidence needed to promote their unique skills and contribution to health and social care delivery.

Service delivery and organisation

Research is needed into the organisation and delivery of services, with a focus on workforce design and diversity, skills mix, demographic trends and population needs. The changing pattern of delivery of health and social care throughout the UK means that occupational therapists and support workers need evidence to support the relevance of occupation-focused interventions in an increasingly diverse range of environments. Whilst the integration of services within the community remains a key area for evaluation, research endeavours need to be responsive to new and emerging areas of practice.

Involvement of service users and carers

It is a priority for research into occupational therapy service provision that service users and their carers are involved at all stages of the research process. Such inclusion will enable research questions to be focused more clearly on aspects that directly address people's health and lifestyle needs. In terms of service redesign and delivery it is recognised that the users of research may be occupational therapists rather than service users.

The context of research priorities

It is clear that occupational therapy research will take place within a number of overarching contexts, and prime consideration must be given to the following aspects when developing research questions:

  • Gaps in the existing knowledge base can only be identified for research from a thorough literature search and systematic review of existing evidence
  • Government priority areas are the main drivers for much supported research activity
  • Occupational therapists should focus individual research endeavours within larger programmes of research, maintaining awareness that funders prefer multi-professional research