OH key to getting sick back to work

“We
don’t intervene early enough when someone is off sick from work,” said Dr
Philip Sawney, principle medical adviser at the Department of Work and
Pensions, “and too many people assume disability equals incapacity for work.”

During
his presentation on the Government’s Green Paper, Pathways to work – introduced
last year to help people with an illness or disability back into employment –
Sawney explained the rationale behind the paper and the challenges involved in
helping to ensure more people get back to work.

The
reasons for the strategy is clear, he told delegates, with current figures
showing that 2.7 million people of working age are on a state incapacity
benefit and 1 million report sick each week, of which 3,000 remain off work for
the next six months.

Most
disturbingly, he revealed, of those who are off work for six months, 80 per
cent will not work again over the next five years.

It
has been recognised that early interventions and the management of assumptions
of unemployability are the way to tackle the problem, he said, but the
challenge is to ensure early intervention takes place and that patients have
access to both healthcare and the sort of rehabilitation programmes that help
them back into work.

Musculoskeletal
disorders (MSDs) and mental health problems remain the two greatest causes of
incapacity, he said.

It
is often thought that many of those on incapacity benefits are incapable of any
sort of work, despite the fact that more than 90 per cent want to work again
and research suggests ‘worklessness is a major risk to health’.

Jobcentres
and the NHS have been trialling rehabilitation and back to work support but the
Government cannot provide the whole solution, he said.

He
told delegates that OH can play a central part in ensuring employers take a
more proactive approach to helping people back to work.

www.dwp.gov.uk/medical

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