Occupational therapy interventions for informal carers and implications for carer support: a systematic review - PEOLC17


Informal carers provide essential support for patients and help relieve strain on stretched health and social care services, however caring can detrimentally affect carers’ wellbeing, thus policy advocates for improved carer support. This review aims to synthesize published international literature regarding the role of occupational therapists in interventions to support carers


About 6.5 million people in the UK – around 10% of the population – are informal carers, supporting family or friends in an unpaid role. Health and social care rely on these carers to help and support people living with a range of conditions within the community, helping relieve the strain on services. Estimates of the value of this care range from £57-100 billion a year, with the value of unpaid care significantly outweighing that of formal care provided through health and social services. Informal carers assist patients in maintaining their independence and wellbeing and may assist with a range of tasks, including meal preparation, personal care, shopping, managing healthcare appointments and providing emotional support.

However, informal carers are patients within their own right and may require support to ensure their continued wellbeing, particularly as caring can impact on their mental and physical health. Various policies have emerged in recent years emphasizing the need to better identify and support carers. The Five Year Forward View highlights the “underappreciated contribution” of informal carers to both patients and the sustainability of NHS services. More recently, the NHS Long Term Plan reports that “carers are twice as likely to suffer from poor health compared to the general population” and encourages improved carer support. Meeting the needs of carers is essential to ensure their wellbeing and to enable them to provide care throughout the trajectory of the patient’s illness.

Occupational therapists contribute to this support and are well-placed to do so, often working closely and developing positive relationships with the friends and family of patients. This review, therefore, aims to capture insights into the role occupational therapy is playing in supporting informal carers. The findings may help both members of the profession and informal carers themselves.

Project activities:

This systematic review will aim to establish:

a) the extent to which occupational therapists are involved in interventions targeting adult informal carers within the UK as described within the research literature

b) the quality of research evidence that has been produced relating to these interventions

c) the nature and breadth of these interventions

d) information relating to the efficacy of these interventions reported within the literature

The completed review will provide occupational therapists with evidence to inform practice and future research in order to improve care and support of informal carers.

 Project aims:

Locally we will share the findings with:

  • Council for Allied Health Professions Research (CAHPR) hub (including presenting at local meeting)

  • local occupational therapy peer support groups

  • local carer special interest groups e.g. Carers Matter Norfolk (e.g. provision of newsletter pieces etc.)

  • Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital & University of East Anglia

Nationally we will share the findings via:

  • Royal College of Occupational Therapists’ conference 2021 abstract (accepted)

  • submission of the review for publication

  • dissemination to national carers’ associations/charities including Carers UK and The Carer’s Trust

  • submission of a short piece for OTnews

  • dissemination to national CAHPR network

  • and using social media


This review is registered on PROSPERO as:

Kerry Micklewright, Morag Farquhar. Occupational therapy interventions for informal carers and implications for carer support: a systematic review. PROSPERO 2020 CRD42020203026 - available from:

Next step:

This review is currently in write up.

Recent activity:

This review is currently in write up.

Related projects:



Morag Farquhar,  University of East Anglia