The long-term absent are not just statistics

It can be easy to forget that statistics for long-term absence represent hundreds of thousands of troubled individuals. What dry statistics can’t reveal is the anxiety and mental stress caused to each of them – first, by their condition and then by the subsequent inactivity and isolation of being absent from work.

During a recent conference held by the National Work and Health Network, one speaker provided a valuable insight. After a day of informative presentations regarding the work of the network (see page 21), including offering OH services via primary care trusts, health and safety advice to SMEs, and working with local authorities and trade unions, we heard a personal testimony from Jenny Collins, now an advice worker at the Workers Health Advice Team in Bradford.

She gave listeners an insight into both the physical and mental distress she faced after developing upper limb disorder more than 10 years ago. Hearing a personal account from someone who found themselves becoming a statistic was a salutary reminder of the important work that those in OH do in ensuring that people don’t fall through the net and into the abyss of long-term sickness absence.

This is also the theme taken up by the CPD article starting on page 23, which points out that absence due to mental problems and stress is not helped by being left to stew at home or by the negative attitudes of unsympathetic managers. It shows why taking a bio-psychosocial approach to assessment and rehabilitation planning can help those in OH ensure effective case management with the aim of a successful return to work.

Monitoring the activities of employees that colleagues might prefer don’t turn up to work is the theme of this month’s cover story (page 18), which warns that employers ignore the signs of potential violence at work at their staff’s and their own peril.

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