Educational opportunities for Allied Health Professionals (AHPs); translating a rights-based approach to practice

Occupational therapy internship pathway

Since 2013, the Division of Occupational Therapy and Arts Therapies at Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh have worked with Santander Universities UK and Alzheimer Scotland, to develop and create an occupational therapy internship pathway.  This programme has produced several important outcomes of relevance illustrated in the pathway below:


One of these outcomes included the recognition early on of a gap in educational provision connecting allied health professionals (AHPs) existing knowledge and skills, towards expertise as part of the dementia practice level of the Promoting Excellence Framework (2011).  Our response to this identified gap was to extend our partnership work beyond the internship programme, to develop a Master’s level module entitled:

‘Developing rights-based practice for Allied Health Professionals (AHP) working with people living with dementia, their families and carers’

Background to MSc module

We co-created, designed and have co-delivered in partnership with Alzheimer Scotland, this module at Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh since 2016.  It is a module specifically designed for AHP’s who are interested in adopting, understanding and gaining an appreciation of what a rights-based approach to their practice might look and feel like.  This is important because a rights-based approach frames the first Scottish Government AHP policy, published by Alzheimer Scotland, ‘Connecting People, Connecting Support: Transforming the allied health professionals’ contribution to supporting people living with dementia in Scotland, 2017-2020’.  This policy influences how AHPs in Scotland can enhance their support for people living with dementia, their families and carers; one aim of which is to sustain and enable people living with dementia to live positive, fulfilling and independent lives for as long as possible.

Consequently, ‘Connecting People, Connecting Support’, outlines an AHP Approach which encompasses five key areas, these being;

  1. Supporting families and carers as equal partners
  2. Enhancing daily living
  3. Adapting everyday environments
  4. Maximizing psychological wellbeing
  5. Maximizing physical wellbeing

These five key elements form the basis of the MSc module content to support AHP’s in practice to develop expertise when working with people living with dementia, their families and carers.

What the module involves

The module is delivered over three contact days (9.15am to 4.15pm) incorporating a variety of learning and teaching activities on campus at Queen Margaret University.  The final student assessment is a presentation, delivered at the Alzheimer Scotland office based in Edinburgh.   Module content initially considers the development and publication of the Charter of Rights for People with Dementia and their Carers in Scotland (2009), guided by the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, including consideration of the methods through which a human rights-based approach can be applied to practice, such as the use of the PANEL principles (participation, accountability, non-discrimination, empowerment, legality).

A variety of visiting lecturers from across the allied health professions share examples of their evidence informed practice and knowledge of working with people living with dementia, to support enhanced rehabilitation and enablement aimed towards improved practice and personal outcomes for people living with dementia.  This includes learning and teaching informed and led by members of the Scottish Dementia Working Group (SDWG), a national campaigning and awareness-raising group whose members all have a diagnosis of dementia.  Additional online, self-directed learning is undertaken in between the three contact days, to help prepare students as part of teaching activities, including the final assessment.


To date, 38 practitioners (occupational therapists, physiotherapists, podiatrists) have undertaken this module, including international AHP’s from Spain, Poland, Japan etc.  It is anticipated, in part by the diversity of AHP students undertaking this module and the range of learning activities offered, that people living with dementia will experience AHP services delivered by therapists who are committed to an approach that drives improvement, innovation and research in the delivery of high-quality, responsive, rights-based and person-centred AHP rehabilitation.

To support AHP’s to access this educational opportunity, Alzheimer Scotland offers a scholarship which can cover approximately half the module fee.  This scholarship is again available to applicants commencing study in September 2019.  If you are interested in finding out how to apply for the MSc module, or information concerning the scholarship available from Alzheimer Scotland, please contact Fiona Maclean (

To find out more about how this module has supported AHP’s to re-consider and explore their practice, we have invited former students to contribute blogs in the coming weeks.

Next steps

As part of our own drive for improvement and enhancement, we are currently undertaking a review of our module, to refresh existing content and to ensure we continue to meet the ongoing educational needs of AHPs.  To help inform this review we would like to ask you some questions which we hope you can respond to, either by emailing Fiona Maclean ( or Elaine Hunter (, or by leaving a comment on this blog.


  1. In relation to developing and supporting the expertise of AHP’s in working with people living with dementia, their families and carers, what are the areas of practice and/or concern(s) you feel would be important for us to address as part of teaching content?
  2. What are the types of learning opportunities you would like to access that could support your developing expertise when working with people living with dementia, their families and carers (e.g. online content, campus-based learning, alternative CPD opportunities such as workshops on site)?



Dr Fiona Maclean @MacleanFiona

I am an occupational therapist and I currently lead and teach on the MSc (Post Reg.) occupational therapy at Queen Margaret University.  I am also an associate member of the Centre for Person-centred Practice Research (CPcPR), which aims to be a world leading centre for research and development in person-centred practice with a focus on innovative new knowledge in nursing and healthcare.


Elaine Hunter @elaineahpmh

National Allied Health Professions Consultant, Public Policy, Alzheimer Scotland



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