Therapist intervention earns OH dept award

An occupational health department has won a Department of Health/Health and
Safety Executive award for its work in getting NHS staff back to work.

The department at St Helens and Knowsley Hospitals NHS Trust in Merseyside
has won the most improved service award in the Back to Work Awards, which were
launched last autumn.

Since October 2002, the department, which employs two OH nurses and a
trainee, has hired an occupational therapist on a weekly basis to carry out
ergonomic assessments to give staff with musculoskeletal injuries a phased
return-to-work programme, where appropriate.

In its first 16 months, of the 13 people who went through the programme, 12
returned to their original jobs and one has been redeployed.

OH manager Karen Brayley told Occupational Health that around 59 people had
now been through the programme.

"We introduced a return-to-work programme, but it is very closely
aligned with the occupational therapist," she said. "We look at an
optimal time for rehabilitation of between one to three months, and virtually
everyone that has gone through has gone back to work. As far as we know, we are
the only service that employs an occupational therapist," she added.

Staff who go on the programme (which lasts eight weeks) continue to receive
full pay.

The therapist initially focused on dealing with back pain, but from January,
the programme was extended to cover stress management.

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