Occupational Therapy

Who can complete a functional capacity assessment? Brisbane

August 8, 2023

A Functional Capacity Assessment (FCA), also known as a Functional Capacity Evaluation (FCE), is a comprehensive evaluation that measures an individual’s ability to perform various activities of daily living. It plays a crucial role in the field of Occupational Therapy, particularly in the context of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). In Brisbane, these assessments have become increasingly important, with a growing number of individuals seeking assistance for disabilities and other health concerns.

Who Can Conduct a Functional Capacity Assessment?

When it comes to conducting a Functional Capacity Assessment (FCA), not just anyone is qualified. The process requires a deep understanding of human physiology, psychology and the ability to interpret complex data. This is where Occupational Therapists and Allied Health Professionals come into play.

Occupational Therapists are at the forefront of conducting FCAs. They are university-trained professionals who have spent years studying human anatomy, physiology, psychology, and the impact of illness and disability on a person’s functional performance. Their training includes theoretical education and practical placements, equipping them with the skills to accurately assess an individual’s functional capacity.

An Occupational Therapist’s role is not just limited to conducting the assessment. They also interpret the results, develop a comprehensive report, and recommend strategies to improve the individual’s function in their daily activities. They can suggest modifications to the person’s environment, recommend assistive devices, or develop a therapeutic intervention plan to enhance their skills.

Allied Health Professionals, such as physiotherapists, can also conduct FCAs. These professionals have a deep understanding of the human body and its functions. They can assess a person’s physical capacity to perform tasks and provide recommendations to improve their physical health and function.

Occupational Therapists and Allied Health Professionals in Brisbane have significantly contributed to FCAs applications. They have been instrumental in helping individuals with disabilities, mental health issues, and those recovering from injuries or illnesses. Their work has helped these individuals better understand their abilities and limitations, enabling them to lead more fulfilling lives.

It’s important to note that while these professionals are qualified to conduct FCAs, the process should always be individualised. Each person’s abilities and limitations are unique; the assessment should reflect this. Therefore, the FCA professional must deeply understand the person’s unique circumstances and needs.

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The Role of Occupational Therapists in Functional Capacity Assessments

Occupational Therapists (OTs) are central to the process of Functional Capacity Assessments (FCAs). Their role is multifaceted and extends beyond the simple administration of the assessment. They bring a unique perspective to the process, focusing on the individual’s abilities and how they can be optimised to enhance their participation in daily activities.

One of the key aspects of an OT’s role in conducting an FCA is their holistic approach. They don’t just look at a person’s physical abilities; they consider the whole person. This includes their mental health, emotional well-being, social factors, and environmental context. They understand that a complex interplay of these factors influences a person’s functional capacity.

For instance, an OT will consider a person’s mental health status when conducting an FCA. They understand that conditions such as depression, anxiety, or cognitive impairments can significantly impact a person’s ability to perform daily tasks. They will consider this when assessing a person’s functional capacity and recommending support or intervention.

Similarly, OTs are well-versed in understanding the impact of various disabilities on a person’s function. They can assess a person’s abilities in the context of their disability, considering factors such as fatigue, pain, and the fluctuating nature of some conditions. This allows them to provide a more accurate and meaningful assessment of a person’s functional capacity.

In aged care, OTs understand the unique challenges older adults face. They can assess a person’s functional capacity in light of age-related changes and conditions, such as arthritis, dementia, or frailty. They can then make recommendations to support the person’s independence and quality of life.

OTs also play a crucial role in the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). They conduct FCAs to determine a person’s eligibility for the scheme and to identify their support needs. They can also provide ongoing support to NDIS participants, helping them to maximise their functional capacity and achieve their goals.

The expertise of OTs in conducting FCAs has led to numerous success stories. They have helped individuals to understand their abilities, access the support they need, and lead more fulfilling lives. They have also contributed to developing more inclusive communities where individuals with disabilities or health conditions can participate fully and meaningfully.

The Process of a Functional Capacity Assessment

A Functional Capacity Assessment (FCA) is a comprehensive process that evaluates an individual’s ability to perform various tasks essential for daily living. Occupational Therapists typically conduct this process which involves several key steps.

Initial Consultation and History TakingOccupational Therapist gathers information about the individual’s medical history, current health status, and daily living needs. This might involve discussing medical records, conducting interviews with the individual and caregivers, and observing daily routines.
Assessment of Fine Motor SkillsEvaluation of the individual’s coordination of small muscle movements, involving hands and fingers with the eyes. This includes tasks like tying shoelaces, buttoning a shirt, writing, and manipulating objects.
Assessment of Gross Motor SkillsEvaluation of the individual’s larger body muscle movements essential for walking, running, jumping, and maintaining balance. This may involve observing gait, balance, coordination, and ability to perform tasks like climbing stairs or lifting objects.
Interpretation and ReportingOccupational Therapist interprets the results and creates a comprehensive report detailing the individual’s abilities and limitations in performing various tasks. The report may include recommendations for interventions or supports to enhance functional capacity.
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Follow-Up and Support

The FCA process doesn’t end with the delivery of the report. The Occupational Therapist will often provide ongoing support to the individual, helping them to implement the recommended interventions and monitoring their progress over time. This might involve regular follow-up appointments, coordination with other health professionals, and adjustments to the intervention plan.

Functional Capacity Assessments and the NDIS

Functional Capacity Assessments (FCAs) are pivotal in the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). The NDIS scheme is designed to support Australians with permanent and significant disability. FCAs are a key tool in determining the level of support required for each participant.

Identifying Support Needs

One of the primary purposes of an FCA within the NDIS framework is to identify the support needs of participants. Occupational Therapists conducting the assessment will evaluate the participant’s ability to perform daily tasks and activities. This includes everything from self-care tasks, such as dressing and eating, to more complex tasks, like managing finances or navigating public transportation.

The assessment will also consider the participant’s social and communication skills, learning abilities, and capacity for employment or education. By evaluating these areas, the Occupational Therapist can identify where the participant may need additional support or services.

Determining Equipment RequirementsIn this step, the Occupational Therapist assesses the participant’s equipment needs, which may include assistive technology (e.g., wheelchairs, communication devices) or home modifications (e.g., ramps, handrails). Recommendations for necessary equipment are made based on the assessment findings.
Guiding NDIS ServicesThe insights gained from the FCA play a crucial role in guiding the provision of NDIS (National Disability Insurance Scheme) services. The detailed assessment report helps inform the participant’s NDIS plan, outlining the specific support and services required to help them achieve their goals and cater to their unique needs.
Impact on ParticipantsIn this step, the Occupational Therapist assesses the participant’s equipment needs, including assistive technology (e.g., wheelchairs, communication devices) or home modifications (e.g., ramps, handrails). Recommendations for necessary equipment are made based on the assessment findings.


Functional Capacity Assessments are vital in Occupational Therapy and the wider health sector. With their comprehensive training and holistic approach, occupational therapists are uniquely positioned to conduct these assessments. These professionals continue to significantly impact Brisbane and beyond, particularly within the NDIS framework.


Here is a link from the NDIS site that provides information about the NDIS and its services: NDIS Official Website.

Selection of Assessment Tools: This document from the NDIS discusses the NDIS Independent Assessment Framework, which references the impact on functional capacity.