The government has announced the pilot sites for its proposed Fit for Work national workplace health service.
The 10 sites across the country will test various models between now and March 2011, though it is possible the pilots could run for longer, with the Department of Health and the Department for Work and Pensions between them setting aside £13m to fund the tests.
In Scotland, occupational health provider Salus will test a country-wide freephone national advice line, with a particular focus on providing support for small and medium-sized organisations (SMEs). A further pilot will run in Dundee aimed at providing support for people with ill-health who are nevertheless still in work but considered at risk of sickness absence and subsequent loss of employment.
In Wales, a City Strategy Partnership is to be set up in Rhyl to test a model of providing support to a deprived coastal area through case managers based in GP practices.
In Leicestershire, both in Leicester and in the county as a whole, a pilot project will run based around case managers dealing with GP referrals and supporting people who are out of work and have health and employability needs.
In neighbouring Nottinghamshire, another City Strategy Partnership, led by Nottinghamshire Employment and Skills Board, will aim to help businesses get sick workers back into work, offer vocational rehabilitation, and support workers while they are absent. This will include a team of specialist occupational therapists with expertise in common mental health problems and musculoskeletal disorders.
A pilot in the central West Midlands, covering Birmingham, Coventry, Sandwell and Solihull, will focus on supporting sick absentees and those out of work, again primarily through case managers and supplied through an as-yet unnamed private provider.
In North Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent, a pilot will build on the existing work of the regional NHS Condition Management Programme, which aims to support unemployed people with long-term illnesses to return to work.
Another coastal pilot will be run in Kent, covering the Margate area, using as its base the government’s “Total Place” initiative , which has been looking at how local public agencies, such as local authorities, can better deliver front-line services. In this case, there will be a focus on improving GP referrals of sickness absentees.
In Wakefield, an area of high deprivation, the aim is to establish a Fit for Work service from scratch, to demonstrate how the infrastructure of such a service might be set up to complement existing local services.
Finally, in London’s Kensington & Chelsea, a pilot project will be run by an as-yet unnamed NHS occupational health provider in partnership with the local environmental health team.
This case management-led project will focus on providing support for SMEs as well as an emphasis on skills provision, including forging links with the government’s proposed Adult Advancement Careers Service, first outlined by the Department for Innovation, Business and Skills in 2008.
Alongside all this, early next year a learning network will be set up in which the pilot projects and any other interested parties will be able to take part.
Health secretary Andy Burnham said: “Our Fit for Work schemes will test new, innovative and personalised services to help people back into work.
“We want these pilots to have a real impact and show us what works best so we can build on this investment in the future.”