“NHS should put stressed workers on the fast track”

Dame Sally Davies: people with mental health problems are priority

The NHS should look into the feasibility of offering employees suffering from stress and mental illhealth fast-track support to help them stay in work, Dame Sally Davies, the chief medical officer for England, has said.

Employers should also be encouraged to make simple changes such as offering flexible working hours
and making early and regular contact with employees on sick leave, she recommended

In her latest annual report on the nation’s health, Dame Sally highlighted her concerns about the cost to individuals, to society and to the economy of rising levels of mental ill-health and absence.

Some 70 million working days were lost to mental illness last year at a cost to the economy of between £70-£100 billion, she said, a figure that she described as “astounding”.

She also called for the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence to carry out a cost-benefit analysis to investigate possible fast-track mental healthcare for working people at risk of falling out of work.

The NHS should also look at piloting psychiatry services that are integrated into primary care, she added.

Dame Sally said: “Anyone with mental illness deserves good quality support at the right time. One of the stark issues highlighted in this report is that 60% to 70% of people with common mental disorders such as depression and anxiety are in work, so it is crucial that we take action to help those people stay in employment to benefit their own health as well as the economy.”

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