Government seeks contributions on how to improve workforce health

The government has called on businesses, occupational health and the medical profession to come up with ideas about how to improve the health of Britain’s working population.

A wide-ranging “call for evidence” was launched in October by the departments of health and work and pensions as part of a review of the issue being carried out by national director for health and work, Dame Carol Black.

A key element of the review, which is due to be published early in the New Year, will be what constitutes effective occupational health provision, and how it can be made available to all.

Ministers say they are looking for contributions from both individuals and organisations. A website has been set up, and Dame Carol will be hosting a series of events around the country.

The questions the government hopes to answer are:

  • How can we keep working-age people healthy, and how can the workplace be used to promote health?

  • How can people best be helped to remain in or quickly return to work when they develop health conditions including chronic disease or disabilities?

  • How does the age of the person affect the support that is needed?

  • How can government encourage action to improve employee health?

  • What underlies the apparent growth in mental health problems in the working-age population, and how can this be addressed? 

  •  What constitutes effective occupational health provision, and how can it be made available to all?

  • What would be the impact on poverty and social inclusion of a healthier working-age population?

  • What are the costs of working-age ill health to business, and what are the benefits to companies of investing in the health of their staff?

The move follows a flurry of activity by the government in recent weeks, including plans to make it easier for people in employment to access primary care, and a £170m cash injection to create a network of centres offering mental health and psychological therapies for people with anxiety and depression.

Health secretary Alan Johnson said over the next two years the government would roll out psychological therapies to 20 areas, with the aim of covering the whole country over the next few years.

All GP practices will have access to such therapies, particularly cognitive behavioural therapy, as the programme was expanded.
The Black review is also expected to assess the current system for issuing sicknotes, and whether the format or design of the Med 3 sicknote needs to be changed to encourage employers to make adjustments to their workplaces, rather than people simply being signed off sick.

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