Arthritis charity funds study to help sufferers stay in work

A three-year pilot has been launched to see how people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) who struggle to stay in employment after diagnosis could be better helped and supported to stay in work.

The pilot is being overseen by Professor Alison Hammond from the University of Salford’s Centre for Health, Sport and Rehabilitation and is being funded to the tune of £262,000 by medical research charity Arthritis Research UK.

Currently, up to 40% of people with RA give up work within five years of being diagnosed, and rarely return to employment, the charity has said.

The pilot will evaluate the effectiveness of vocational rehabilitation in keeping RA patients working, including interventions such as changing jobs, retraining, introducing more flexible working hours and practical adaptations.

It is intended that 100 people with RA will be recruited, half of whom will have three intensive one-to-one meetings with occupational therapists in which all options for workplace support will be examined and implemented, as part of a structured assessment process.

The other half, the control group, will be given a self-help booklet on how to stay in work. The outcomes of the two approaches will then be compared. If the pilot project shows that vocational rehabilitation is effective in keeping more people in work it will be rolled out into a full-scale clinical trial.

“Most people with inflammatory arthritis experience a period when they struggle to meet job demands and take increasing sick leave, despite their desire to stay in work, and this is the time when vocational rehabilitation could be most effective,” said Hammond.

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