From Occupational Therapist to Inspector by Gail McDonald.

Starting her career as an Occupational Therapist, Senior Inspector Gail McDonald worked in Older Adults Mental Health Services before moving to Homeless and Asylum Health Services.  To mark Allied Health Professions (AHP) Day 2021, Gail explains how and why she used her skills and experience as an Occupational Therapist to become an Inspector.

Allied Health Professions (AHP) day is fast approaching, and it happens to coincide with my Health Care Professions Council (HCPC) registration renewal and an extension to my secondment so it seems like the right time to reflect on my professional development.  This reflection has challenged me to think about my transferrable skills and how I use them now, in my role as an Inspector.

As an Occupational Therapist (OT) by profession and an occupational being in life, my commitment to my profession has never wavered.  When I stepped into my role as an Inspector I did not see it as stepping back from my profession, but I appreciate from the outside it may look like that.

Why become an Inspector?

I have spent most of my career working in Homeless and Asylum Health Services (HAHS), part of Glasgow City (Health and Social Care Partnership) as an OT and most recently as the Operational Team Lead for the Occupational Therapy and Mental Health teams.  I have a passion for recognising and addressing inequalities and supporting an inclusive health and social care system.   Thinking about these passions, inspection probably doesn’t jump out as the obvious career move. But the Adult Support and Protection (ASP) inspection programme seemed different –   it had a specific focus on the Adult Support and Protection (Scotland) Act 2007 and I knew my background gave me the knowledge and skills that were needed for the job. Adult Support and Protection is all about complex risk management and partnership working and this had been my life in HAHS – this gave me an abundance of knowledge about the legislation in practice including its limitations and challenges.

When I took on my team lead role what jumped out at me immediately was that my skills as an OT were going to give me a really good head-start.  As an OT you are trained to start with the bigger picture.  You consider multiple variables and interrelating components as well as the impact on an individual.  You are knowledgeable about physiological, psychological, personal, environmental, community and societal factors that impact on the functional ability of individuals.  But ultimately you look at the detail – the specific issues – and then you consider how you move forward.  

Process driven and a problem solver

As an OT, you prioritise the individual – to evaluate their wants and needs, their motivations and strengths.  You use the variables that are in your gift to control, adapt and change.  But how do you do that?  With a clear process, problem solving approach and a therapeutic relationship, of course.  In my role as team leader, I instinctively adopted the same approach but with teams not individuals.  There are of course, a number of individuals affected by those teams – so keeping an eye on the details is still necessary and more important than ever, as the impact of a team is broader than just me as an individual clinician.  My ability to build relationships with other teams and organisations was also a crucial transferable skill and contributed towards the effectiveness of my teams.  Ultimately my success in this role gave me the confidence to take the step into life as an Inspector. 

Knowing where the differences are

So, what about my skills as an Inspector?  Well, without a doubt it’s about applying those same skills but in a different setting.  This time, to an organisational setting. And in fact, with ASP, it is the interaction of multiple organisations.  This time, I am working as part of an inspection team so my influence and relationships with my team need to be strong. I use my holistic assessment skills to analyse and synthesise information from a variety of sources, critique documents, consider the role of staff and how clear the systems and processes are to support them to function at their best.  And of course, we look at the detail. We look at the service user experience and the outcome of all the variables, interactions, systems and processes. Then we consider the recommendations for improvement just like I would if it was an assessment report outcome.  Only in this role, I stop short of the ‘treatment plan’ – that falls back to the respective partnerships.

I have no doubt that I can confidently renew my registration as an OT and that the extension of my secondment away from a clinical setting will not compromise this.  My OT skills are undoubtedly an asset in my current role as an Inspector and I take comfort and pride in knowing that. 

Gail McDonald is a Senior Inspector at Healthcare Improvement Scotland

Find out more about the Adult Support and Protection inspection

Find out more about roles with Healthcare Improvement Scotland at 


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