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Latvian Presidency Conference focuses on Health & Work

May 6th, 2015 by Stephen Bevan, The Work Foundation

As The Work Foundation’s research has demonstrated, the health of the working age population across the EU is likely to represent a major economic and social burden over the next 20-30 years. In a context in which chronic conditions are imposing an increasingly significant burden on our healthcare systems, and where only 3 per cent of EU health spending is allocated to prevention, new approaches throughout the continuum of care (from early prevention to recovery) are urgently required.

Last week The Work Foundation, through our Fit for Work initiative, hosted a major conference to showcase innovative approaches from across the EU to maximising ‘workability’ among people with chronic illness. The conference – Healthcare Solutions to Improve Workability – was endorsed by the Latvian Presidency of the Council of the European Union and Riga Stradins University and we were delighted to welcome Dr Guntis Belēvičs, Minister of Health and Mr Uldis Augulis, Minister of Welfare who opened the event.

We heard contributions from Poland, Spain, Latvia, Germany and Austria, together with presentations from both the OECD and WHO Europe.

In addition, at a meeting of national representatives of Fit for Work Coalitions from across Europe, we had presentations from The Netherlands, Estonia, Finland, Czech Republic, Belgium and the USA. We also launched a new paper looking at the economic benefits of early healthcare interventions which help people with MSDs to stay in work. This paper shows that early, work-focused interventions can reduce sick leave and lost work productivity among workers with MSDs by more than 50 per cent, reduce healthcare costs by up to two-thirds, reduce disability benefits costs by up to 80 per cent, reduce the risk of permanent work disability and job loss by up to 50 percent, reduce the risk of developing a co-morbid mental illness and deliver societal benefits by supporting people with work-limiting chronic conditions to optimise their functional capacity and maintain economic independence.

The debate in Latvia focused very much on the practical steps we need to take to convince policymakers, clinicians and employers to re-double their efforts to prioritise early return to work for people with chronic health problems through earlier intervention and through vocational rehabilitation support.

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Care planning and musculoskeletal conditions in the UK

December 3rd, 2014 by Ioana Piscociu

Commenting on the NHS Mandate and the latest findings of Arthritis Research UK, Dr Laura Boothman, Policy Manager, says:

“Our new analyses of national survey data indicate that, despite the Mandate commitment, just 12% of people with a musculoskeletal condition currently have a care plan. There is an opportunity for many more people to benefit.” Read more on The Work Foundation blog.

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People with chronic MSDs compromising their health to keep their jobs, new report reveals

September 5th, 2014 by Ioana Piscociu

The government, the NHS, and employers are failing to provide the necessary support for people with chronic MSDs (musculoskeletal disorders)* to stay in work. This is according to a new report released today (Friday 5th September) by Lancaster University’s Work Foundation and the Fit for Work UK Coalition. The findings also indicate that some patients are putting their health at risk to hold on to their jobs.

Update: Commenting on the report, Sue Browning, deputy chief executive of the CSP, said: “Physiotherapists are experts at keeping people healthy in work, or facilitating a return after sickness absence, and it is very important that employers provide staff with fast access to occupational health services (…) The NHS should also make self-referral to physiotherapy available across the country”. Read the full statement of Sue Browning on the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy website.

Professor Stephen Bevan, director of the Centre for Workforce Effectiveness at The Work Foundation and founding president of Fit for Work UK, said: “Workers with MSDs often find themselves fighting a lonely battle to remain in work. The government, employers and clinicians should make it a priority to support them to remain in employment after diagnosis”.

Currently, Britain is losing 30.5 million working days a year to MSDs, which are the leading cause of sickness absence, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS)**. Today’s paper shows that employers, in particular small organisations, have little knowledge about government schemes such as “Access to Work” and are insufficiently prepared to manage chronic conditions in the workplace. Many workers admit to being reluctant to ask for help from their line managers for fear of stigma, negative judgement and job loss. Others said they had to involve their union to get the necessary support or move into self-employment.

The interviews conducted for the report released today highlight that, unless action is taken, individuals’ health conditions and quality of life will continue to be damaged by work, with some leaving the labour market prematurely. The consequence of the status quo is an increase in productivity loss, sickness absence and, ultimately, the welfare bill.

One employee interviewed in the report said: “Last year, the team were very understaffed some individuals went off sick. I think the pressure to try and do other people’s jobs as well as your own just got too much for me. It was a very stressful time to me and that made my illness a lot worse”. Another explained: “It’s a bit rule by fear in this department these days. They’ll try and get rid of you if you’ve been off too long with your health”.

Kate Summers, research officer at The Work Foundation, commented: “Individuals with chronic MSDs will go to great lengths to remain in work. They will give up aspects of their family and social life, and they will even take roles below their skill set. This is because work can bring many benefits – be they financial, psychological or social. These benefits are undermined if individuals are working in a environment that is not good for their health”.

The report makes four recommendations: 1. The government should increase participation to initiatives like “Access to Work” and should provide extra assistance for employees working in small and medium enterprises; 2. The government should also ensure that work is viewed as a “clinical outcome” by clinicians and invest in more “specialist nurse” roles; 3. Employers should consider all necessary workplace adjustments and offer career development opportunities for people with chronic MSDs; 4. Clinicians should view it as part of their role to ask patients about their work lives.

The authors of the paper also added that they welcome the government’s new Health and Work Service in England and Wales, but that it needs to focus on sustained return to work outcomes.

The report is being previewed on Friday at the conference “Self care & resilience: How we can care?” organised by the College of Medicine at the King’s College, in London

– ENDS –

Notes to the Editors:

1. Kate Summers, research officer, is available for interviews, briefings and written comment. 3. The paper is part of a national campaign led by Fit for Work UK, informing the public debate on dealing with the growing burden of MSDs and calling for coordinated action across all main political parties in the UK. 4. *Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) cover around 200 disorders that affect the joints, bones, muscles and connective tissues. MSDs include back pain, arthritis, osteoarthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, injuries caused by trauma, such as fractures, and other conditions that are the result of genetic or developmental abnormalities, as well as bone and soft tissue cancer. 5. ** The “Sickness Absence in the Labour Market” report. 6. The Fit for Work UK Coalition is an active partnership of healthcare professionals, policymakers, employers and advocacy groups founded in 2007. It supports people with long-term conditions, particularly musculoskeletal conditions. Their members are: AbbVie, the Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Alliance (ARMA), BT Group, Capita, the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP), National Ankylosing Spondylitis Society (NASS), National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society (NRAS), The Work Foundation, and the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP). 7. Lancaster University’s Work Foundation transforms people’s experience of work and the labour market through high quality applied research that empowers individuals and influences public policies and organisational practices. The Work Foundation is part of Lancaster University – an alliance that enables both organisations to further enhance their impact.

Media enquiries:

Ioana Piscociu, ipiscociu@theworkfoundation.com, 020 7976 3526, for urgent out-of-hours enquiries: 0755 178 14 06.

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Fit for Work Europe Preparing for the Latvian Presidency of the EU Council

July 22nd, 2014 by Stephen Bevan, The Work Foundation

On 1st January 2015 the Latvian Government assumes the Presidency of the EU Council. It does so at a crucial time, with economic recovery painfully slow and unevenly distributed among EU Member States, and with jobs (especially for the young) and productivity all high on the agenda. In addition, the new Commission will still be very new and only just beginning to establish its core priorities. This places the Latvian Presidency in a potentially very interesting position and, last week, I spent two days in the beautiful capital city of Riga meeting members of our Latvian Fit for Work Coalition and Health Ministers in the Latvian Health Ministry to discuss ways in which Fit for Work Europe can play an active part in shaping the priorities and content of the Latvian Presidency.

Daiga Behmane - Project Lead, Fit for Work Latvia

Daiga Behmane – Project Lead, Fit for Work Latvia

My visit was hosted by Daiga Behmane, Project Leader of the Latvian Fit for Work Coalition, President of the Latvian Association of Health Economics and lecturer at Riga Stradins University. Daiga brings considerable experience and insight to the work of the Coalition and is well-placed to bring the Fit for Work messages alive to stakeholder in Latvia about early intervention, the need to prioritise health as a clinical outcome and the need to regard health spending which leads to improved workability as an investment rather than a cost. These were some of the messages which Daiga and I took to the Deputy Under-Secretary of State for Health, Egita Pole, and some of her senior officials. We discussed whether some of these principles might be reflected in the priorities of the Latvian Presidency as well as our plans to run a high level event on chronic conditions and work – featuring MSDs – as part of the Presidency programme.

In other meetings I enjoyed an excellent discussion with Prof Daina Andersone of Pauls Stradins Clinical University Hospital, a very eminent Latvian rheumatologist who has strong views about the need to treat young people with inflammatory MSDs as early as possible to help them manage their conditions and successfully move from education to employment. I also met with Dr Jelena Reste. Jelena is an Occupational Physician at Riga Stradins University and a member of the Latvian FfW Coalition. She has been conducting research on MSDs in Latvia and has access to some useful data and research on the prevalence of MSDs in Latvia’s working age population. She and her colleagues have been doing some excellent research on workplace interventions as well as a project on the cost-effectiveness of self-management initiatives.

The challenge for Latvia is that state spending on healthcare has recently fallen below 3 per cent of GDP – a low figure compared with many other countries. This makes it more difficult to make persuasive arguments that investing in workforce health in the short-term will bring wider economic and social benefits in the medium-term. Despite this, the Fit for Work Coalition in Latvia is well-positioned and well-respected and we hope that the weight of evidence and good examples from both within and outside Latvia will help show that prevention – especially in the case of workforce health – is better than cure. For more details on our recommendations for the health and work officials in Latvia you might want to take a look at our evidence-based report.

>> Take a look at our Position Paper for the Latvian Presidency of the EU Council.

>> Daiga Behmane spoke at the Fit for Work 2013 Summit in October. You may check her presentation here.

>> Follow us on Twitter @FfWEurope  @StephenBevan

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EU Strategic Framework on Health and Safety at Work 2014-2020

June 6th, 2014 by FfW Secretariat

Response from The Work Foundation and the Fit for Work Europe Coalition

The Work Foundation, part of Lancaster University, is an applied research and policy think tank which specialises on the health of the working age population. The Fit for Work Europe Coalition has, since 2009, been conducting research on the impact of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) of the health and productivity of workers across all EU Member States.

In response to the Strategic Framework, Prof Stephen Bevan, Director of the Centre for Workforce Effectiveness at The Work Foundation and Founding President of Fit for Work Europe, said:

1. We welcome the strategic framework as it recognises that workplace health and safety are critical areas to sustained economic recovery, especially as the workforce ages and as increasing labour productivity becomes a strategic priority.

2. We are concerned that the strategic framework places little emphasis on a number of workforce health issues which have a significant impact both on workers and on the businesses where they work. For example, it is clear from our own research that EU workforce health and safety cannot merely focus on the workplace causes of ill-health among workers. Pre-existing conditions which are exacerbated by work, or co-morbid health conditions where non-work factors are important and lead to workplace consequences (i.e. lost productivity, presenteeism) must also be given priority, as should the wider psychological climate of workplaces.

3. We are increasingly convinced that joined-up efforts to promote workforce health are required. We feel that the strategic framework should reflect the need for cross-silo investment in workforce health across government at national level and at EC level. We are concerned that, with austerity policies, there has been a more narrow focus on initiatives which are low cost, low risk and which do not prioritise early intervention or prevention. In addition, EU-OSH should be focusing more on coordinating efforts in national health systems to prioritise work as a clinical outcome of treatment among people of working age. Unless the expertise of OH professionals is included more prominently in the way workers with health condition receive access to health treatments which support job retention and return to work, our experience tells us that ‘work ability’ will not be given sufficient priority.

4. The strategic framework should also focus on providing more practical support for employers to make workplace adaptations & to focus on job retention among employees with long-term or chronic conditions. Dissemination of national examples of early interventions which deliver good workplace, clinical and economic results Highlighting case studies of cross-agency working at national level where employers, health systems and welfare interventions combine to promote job retention and return to work for more workers whose jobs are at risk. We would like to see existing legislation on workplace accommodations for people with MSDS, for example, focus on early intervention, and recognise the effect on work ability of pre-existing and comorbid conditions which are not caused directly by work, Specific support for small and medium-sized enterprises should also be targeted.

5. We were very disappointed that the proposed MSD Directive was abandoned after several years of development work. MSDs are the leading cause of sickness absence in Europe, accounting for half of all absences and 60% of permanent work incapacity. In addition, MSDs cost up to 2% of EU GDP, i.e. around €240bn in costs to the continent each year. Our experience is that, in matters of workforce health and safety – requiring a strategic approach – social dialogue can undermine bold, visionary and forward-looking initiatives as a result of narrow, sectional positions being taken. While seeking consensus is to be encouraged, we are concerned that measures to mitigate the negative impact of foreseeable long-term, demographic and epidemiologically important health changes in the working age population in the EU will be undermined by the occasional short-term and self-interested nature of some aspects of the social dialogue process. We would like to see the strategic framework reflect this need more explicitly.

– Ends –

Notes to editors

1. Prof Stephen Bevan, Director of the Centre for Workforce Effectiveness at The Work Foundation and Founding President of Fit for Work Europe, is available for interviews, briefings and written comment.

2. The Work Foundation transforms people’s experience of work and the labour market through high quality applied research that empowers individuals and influences public policies and organisational practices.

3. Fit for Work Europe is a multi-stakeholder Coalition, driving policy and practice change across the work and health agendas in then UK and Europe. We aim to deliver more investment in sustainable healthcare by promoting and implementing early intervention practices. Research shows this approach is the most effective way of ensuring people with MSDs (musculoskeletal disorders) can enter and remain in work across the EU and globally. Fit for Work Europe is a project led by The Work Foundation, supported by AbbVie and GE Healthcare.

4. Fit for Work Europe submitted a response to the EU-OSHA consultation on the new EU Occupational Safety and Health Policy Framework (2014-2020), which can be read here.

 

Media enquiries:

Ioana Piscociu, 020 7976 3526, ipiscociu@theworkfoundation.com

For urgent out-of-hours enquiries: 0755 178 14 06

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Ageing, Health and Work: The Need for True Grit

June 4th, 2014 by Stephen Bevan, The Work Foundation

 

Prof Stephen Bevan, Founding President of Fit for Work Europe

Prof Stephen Bevan, Founding President of Fit for Work Europe

 

This week I had the pleasure of attending the first Uppsala Health Summit in the beautiful University City of Uppsala in Sweden. The theme of the conference was ageing and health and I was invited to speak on behalf of the Fit for Work Europe Coalition.

The event, hosted by the University of Uppsala, was first addressed by Mr Ulf Kristersson, Sweden’s Minister for Social Security who presented some compelling data about demographics in Sweden. Among other things, he explained that the data on ageing among the Swedish population also masked a significant reduction in inequality in life expectancy. While an inequality gap still exists Sweden has succeeded in reducing some of the negative impact of the main social determinants of ill-health.

Later in the day I presented as part of a panel session on the use of technology, diagnostics and screening to improve health outcomes for older people. My focus was on the need to regard early diagnosis and early intervention for musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) as an investment rather than a cost, especially if the outcomes had a wider societal value (such as the ability to remain in work). I used the example of narrow policy and financial silos which, in the case of rheumatoid arthritis in the UK, the economic case for NHS investment in early treatment was made very forcibly by the National Audit Office (NAO) back in 2009. Despite this, the NHS has not prioritised early intervention, thereby forgoing the threefold return on investment in labour productivity which the NAO economic model predicted. One participant at the conference likened this example to the annual debate in Sweden about the cost of gritting roads and pavements. Local authorities are under pressure to minimise the cost of gritting, but the health system then has to bear the cost of older Swedes suffering injuries, fractures and trauma from slips and falls on icy surfaces. As the delegate concluded, the evidence that gritting is cost-effective is clear, but politicians choose to pursue short-term savings instead of doing ‘the right thing’.

I argued that the judicious use of diagnostic technologies and medical interventions which can help older workers with chronic conditions to remain active and at work – especially if this was good quality work – would enhance the health of individuals and improve workforce productivity. In addition, I reminded delegates that a high proportion (up to 65%) of working age people with MSDs are the main income earner in their household and that having to leave the labour market prematurely as a result of poor health can have dire financial consequences for individuals and their families. My plea to the conference was to ensure that healthcare decision-makers routinely consider that remaining in work might be a clinically and socially desirable outcome for older patients and that, as we all have to work longer and retire later, this consideration will become a necessity rather than an optional extra.

In many ways, the resolution to this dilemma lies in being clear about both who pays for these interventions and who stands to benefit. As we heard at our Fit for Work Summit in October 2013, it is possible for different parts of the system (eg Health & Social Security) to share both the costs and the benefits of joined-up interventions rather than just opting for the cheapest, short-term option. As one delegate suggested, our politicians have a democratic mandate to make common-sense decisions where spending leads to savings. It is a shame, he reflected, that so few have the political bravery to put these principles into practice – especially as so many stand to benefit.

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Making the economic case for Early Intervention with MSDs

May 20th, 2014 by Stephen Bevan, The Work Foundation

Last month I spoke at the 1st Macedonian and 4th Adriatic Congress on Pharmacoeconomics and Outcomes Research in the beautiful resort of Ohrid in Macedonia. The Congress examined a range of topics relating to healthcare decision-making in the lower-income countries of the Adriatic and Balkans region. These included the contribution of health insurance to the cost-effective use of medicines, the health economics of personalised medicines and case studies of health technology assessment practices (HTA) in Serbia, Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina (Fit for Work has also conducted a series of case studies on the Societal Perspective in HTA).

Days lost to MSDs in Slovenia

Days lost to MSDs in Slovenia

My presentation focused on the issue of early healthcare interventions which promote workability and labour market participation. I used Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs) as an example and also focused on the Fit for Work research we have conducted in Slovenia to illustrate my conclusions.

In Slovenia, as illustrated by the graph below, MSDs account for a very large proportion of days lost to sickness absence – 2.5 million each year.

Almost 49 per cent of Slovenian workers report work-related back pain, and over 38 per cent of Slovenian workers report that they have experienced muscular pain in their neck, shoulders and upper limbs. There are over 13,000 people with RA – with an annual cost of treatment of €126m. Unlike some countries, the social insurance system in Slovenia extends support to people with MSDs which are not caused by work or workplace injuries (unlike some Worker Compensation schemes around the world). This means that vocational rehabilitation is an important priority. However, there can be delays in accessing treatment which supports return to work (eg physiotherapy, spa therapy, drug treatments) because referral rates to secondary care – especially Orthopaedic specialists in the case of people with MSDs – by GPs are very high, causing long waiting times. As yet GPs in Slovenia – as in most countries – do not have any incentive to regard work as a clinical outcome of care or as a commissioning priority. In addition, there are few incentives in the welfare system for people to remain in work as the disability replacement wage rate id quite high.

My presentation, however, indicated that earlier intervention for Slovenian workers with MSDs could result in an additional 2,800 being available for work each day. This estimate was derived from data produced by Dr Juan Angel Jover and his colleagues in Madrid where an early intervention clinic for people with MSDs reduced temporary work disability by 39 per cent. With the potential for such significant increases in productive capacity and human capital utilisation, I argued that the economic and social benefits of early clinical interventions should be disseminated widely to clinicians and healthcare decision-makers.

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Fit for Work Korea research launched in National Assembly in Seoul

May 6th, 2014 by Stephen Bevan, The Work Foundation

As the Fit for Work programme extends beyond its western European origins it has been fascinating to explore how different countries manage the consequences of chronic ill-health in their working age populations. Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of attending the launch of the Fit for Work report in Seoul. Like many other Asia-Pacific countries, Korea faces a number or pressing demographic and labour market challenges such as ageing which will have profound economic and social consequences. For the research underpinning the Korean report The Work Foundation partnered with Prof Sunwon Kwon and Prof Jongwook Won who, with colleagues, reviewed the Korean literature and data sources on musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) and drafted the report.

Prof Bevan speaking at the launch of the Fit for Work Korea

Prof Bevan speaking at the launch of the Fit for Work Korea

Prof Kwon represents the Graduate School of Business at Sookmyung Women’s University and is an expert in labour relations. Prof Won has a background in occupational medicine and is based at the school of medicine at Yonsei University. The excellent final report was launched at a well-attended seminar hosted in the National Assembly in Seoul, hosted by two eminent members of the Assembly – Congresswoman Jaongae Han (member of the labour Committee) and Congressman Yongik Kim (member of the Health & Welfare Committee).

Core findings from the Fit for Work research in Korea show that:

  • The proportion of the total number of compensated occupational diseases in Korea accounted for by MSDs increased from 49.6 per cent in 2003 to 76.5 per cent in 2007.
  • The total cost of work-related MSDs increased from ₩105.3 billion in 2004 to ₩163.3 billion in 2007.
  • People with MSDs accounted for 69.2% of the total of all occupational diseases in 2010
  • The most common condition requiring more than one day of absence from work (caused by or exacerbated by work) was MSDs in the upper limbs (31.2%), followed by MSDs in the lower limbs (13.9%) and lumbar spine (6.9%),
  • MSDs caused directly by working conditions increased from 26.6% of all cases in 2006 to 33.4% of all cases in 2009
  • According to 2012 National Health Insurance Statistics, 14.87 million people received treatment for MSDs, accounting for 32.5% of total treatment across all conditions.
  • MSDs are the biggest cause of absence from work in Korea and account for no less than 52% of overall disorders.
The launch of the Fit for Work Coalition in Korea

The launch of the Fit for Work Coalition in Korea

The ageing labour force in Korea, together with low rates of labour productivity, are key characteristics of the labour market which policy-makers in Seoul are focused on and the Fit for Work research shines a light on the need to prioritise the health and work ability of the Korean workforce as it becomes more susceptible to chronic health problems.

However, I was convinced that opinion-leaders and policy-makers in Korea are increasingly aware of the need to take action and I am confident that the Fit for Work Korea report will make a significant contribution to the debate in the immediate future. I am hopeful that a Korean Fit for Work Coalition will soon be established to ensure that the findings and recommendations of the report influence the debate on workforce health in Korea.

The Fit for Work report on Musculoskeletal Disorders and the labour market in Korea will soon be published on the Fit for Work website.

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Minister Andriukaitis calls for Early Intervention in Lithuania at event in the Parliament

April 23rd, 2014 by Ioana Piscociu

The Health Minister, Vytenis Povilas Andriukaitis, called for the implementation of the Early Intervention care model in the Republic of Lithuania at an event organised by the Lithuanian Fit for Work Coalition in the Parliament, on the 17th of March. The Minister’s call to action is a major milestone for the Fit for Work mission, as the pan-European Coalition advocates for EU mobilisation against the burden of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) both at central and member state levels.

Minister Vytenis Povilas Andriukaitis calls for Early Intervention

Minister Vytenis Povilas Andriukaitis calls for Early Intervention

The Fit for Work Coalition in Lithuania has been advocating for quite some time for the implementation of a cost-effective solution to reduce the harmful societal and economic impact of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). According to a Fit for Work report analysing the impact of MSDs to the labour market in Lithuania, which is part of a pan-European study conducted by the Coalition through The Work Foundation, MSDs account for about half of all occupational conditions in the country. Fit for Work also found that more than half of those with serious forms of MSDs, such as rheumatoid arthritis, were more likely to become disable than the general EU population living with the same condition, costing the economy around €101 million a year.

On the 17th of March, at the “Musculoskeletal diseases and workability” conference, the  fifth event organised by the Fit for Work Coalition  at the Lithuanian Parliament and chaired by the Health Care Committee and the Lithuanian Rheumatologists Society, the Minister himself called for setting up an “Early Intervention” pilot., The audience, consisting of members of the government, directors of health organisations and experts from various governmental institutions, heard from the Minister Andriukaitis that the innovative care model can significantly reduce both the sickness absence and the permanent job loss attributed to MSDs, promoting a greater participation to the labour market and, thus, saving costs to the Lithuanian economy on the longer term.

The Musculoskeletal Diseases and Workability conference at the Lithuanian Parliament

The Musculoskeletal Diseases and Workability conference at the Lithuanian Parliament

Minister Andriukaitis’s demonstration was backed by Professor Irena Butrimiene from the University of Vilnius. Prof Butrimiene presented some operational scenarios for the set-up of the Early Intervention pilot. These are going to be discussed with experts from the Ministry of Health in the coming weeks.    

The Early Intervention model was founded by Dr Juan Jover, Head of Rheumatology at hospital clinico San Carlos in Madrid, Spain. The programme ran for two year and assessed 3,300 workers with MSDs, resulting in a reduction by 39% of the sickness absence and by 50% of the permanent work disability related to MSDs. The cost-benefit analysis also revealed that there was recouped around €11 for each €1 invested in the pilot. Since then, 25 new Early Intervention programmes have open across Spain, retrieving similar results. With support from the Fit for Work Europe Coalition, EU countries such as the UK, Portugal and Latvia are now testing the programme, too.

 Early Intervention consists  of a rapid diagnosis and assessment, expert clinical management, restraint from bed rest, early mobilization, stretching exercises, ergonomic training, recommendations for physical activity, self-management and support for remaining in, or returning to work. The approach reduces the time of diagnosis, treatment and recovery improving patient outcomes and labour market participation, as well as savings to the health care and welfare systems.   

Minister Andriukaitis expressed his interest in Early Intervention at the Fit for Work Europe 2013 Summit in Brussels, where he had delivered a keynote presentation on behalf of the Lithuanian Presidency of the EU Council

The “Musculoskeletal diseases and workability” conference organised by the Lithuanian Fit for Work Coalition has also been covered by some local media outlets, such as Delfi.lt and Lzinios.lt.  

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Early Intervention is a cost-effective solution to reduce the burden of MSDs

April 23rd, 2014 by Ioana Piscociu

What costs EU countries upwards of €240bn annually? Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs) affect 100 million Europeans and member states could see up to 50 per cent of their working-age populations diagnosed with a chronic MSD by 2030. The 2010 Report on The Global Burden of Disease published by The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation states that “MSDs are the primary cause of disability in Europe.” MSDs are not just a health issue, they are a social and economic one, too — one that we simply cannot afford to ignore.

There is hope, however. We founded MSD Early Intervention trial clinics in Madrid… click to read Dr Jover’s piece on Early Intervention in the Parliament Magazine, issue 387 | 31 March 2014.

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Musculoskeletal Disorders threaten productivity of Asia-Pacific economies, say experts

April 9th, 2014 by Ioana Piscociu

Experts from across the Asia-Pacific Region in Tokyo today have warned that musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) represent a major threat to productivity and economic growth. In a series of reports experts drawn from medicine, labour economics and occupational health found that MSDs are the primary cause of sickness absence and disability amongst Asia-Pacific workforces and that, as these workforces age, the problem is likely to become more acute. At the first meeting of the Fit for Work Coalition in the Region, these experts have joined forces to propose a series of solutions to this threat which they hope will unite governments, doctors and employers to improve workforce health and improve labour productivity.

Fit for Work Asia Pacific is launched

Fit for Work Asia Pacific is launched

Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs) are the primary cause of sickness absence and disability amongst Asia-Pacific workforces, curtailing labour productivity and draining millions of US dollars from the economy every year. This is according to a series of reports published by a group of experts, who have now joined forces under the Fit for Work Coalition and launched an Asia-Pacific initiative to propose solutions to the governments.  

A major study – Fit for Work – conducted by The Work Foundation in 42 countries throughout Europe, the Americas and, recently, the Asia-Pacific informs that MSDs are causing pain and functional impairment to people living with them, as well as putting a great strain on the health and labour systems, with downstream consequences for the economy.

Fit for Work reveals that MSDs account for 53% of all disorders which keep workers off sick in South Korea. They also affect one in four adults in New Zealand, which makes them the primary cause of disability and permanent job loss in the country. Nearly 31% of Australians are living with an MSD, whilst among the 90 million Japanese aged over 30, 21.4 million (24.3 per cent), 3.2 million (3.7 per cent), and 9.1 million (10.4 per cent) were estimated to have low back, hip, and knee pains, respectively. The findings of Fit for Work are in line with a recent report by the World Bank and the Global Burden of Disease, which classifies MSDs as the second cause of disability in the world after mental and behavioural disorders.

Prof Shinya Matsuda - Chair of the Fit for Work Asia-Pacific Coalition

Prof Shinya Matsuda – Chair of the Fit for Work Asia-Pacific Coalition

MSDs are also a great financial burden for the society. “In Japan, we are losing JPY2 trillion each year in direct health care costs attributed to MSDs.” says Professor Shinya Matsuda, University of Occupational and Environmental Health, Japan. “This is a preventable cost. MSDs are manageable conditions, provided workers are enrolled in an early intervention programme, which facilitates early diagnosis and treatment, job retention and return to work. The government should tighten the collaboration between the ministries of health, labour, welfare and finance to implement a national framework for workers living with MSDs.

Professor Matsuda is chairing a group of health professionals, labour market analysts, economists and representatives of patient associations, who have now formed the Fit for Work Asia-Pacific Coalition. The Coalition has been officially launched at a roundtable organised in Tokyo, on the 6th and 7th of April, and is currently bringing together experts from Japan, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Taiwan and Vietnam. With support from their European colleagues, the Asian-Pacific members hope to persuade their governments to adopt national plans which prioritise early intervention programmes to MSDs.

Antonella Cardone Executive Director Fit for Work

Antonella Cardone, Executive Director Fit for Work

The new care model – Early Intervention – is currently tested in several European countries and has been successfully implemented in over 25 regions in Spain. Following a two-year pilot in Spain, the sickness absence and job loss associated to MSDs were reduced respectively by 39% and 50%. The cost-benefit analysis also shows that almost £10 were recouped for every £1 invested in the programme.

Prof Stephen Bevan - Founding President Fit for Work

Prof Stephen Bevan – Founding President Fit for Work

Prof Stephen Bevan, Founding President of the Fit for Work Europe and Director of The Work Foundation, explains “Early Intervention can be a winning solution for all stakeholders – individuals with MSDs, health care professionals, employers, policy-makers and governments. The approach reduces the time of diagnosis, treatment and recovery improving patient outcomes and labour market participation, as well as driving savings to the health care and welfare systems.” 

ENDS

Notes to the Editor

–   Prof. Shinya Matsuda, Chair of the Fit for Work Asia-Pacific and Prof. Stephen Bevan, Founding President of Fit for Work Europe and a director at The Work Foundation, are available for interviews, comments and briefings ;

–   Covering 200 conditions, MSDs include widely known conditions such as back pain and arthritis, injuries caused by trauma, such as fractures, and other conditions that are the result of genetic or developmental abnormalities, as well as bone and soft tissue cancer;

–   Fit for Work is a multi-stakeholder Coalition initiated in Europe, driving policy and practice change across the work and health agendas. We aim to deliver more investment in sustainable healthcare by promoting and implementing early intervention practices. Research shows this approach is the most effective way of ensuring people with MSDs (musculoskeletal disorders) can enter and remain in work across worldwide. Fit for Work is a project led by The Work Foundation, supported by AbbVie and GE Healthcare;

–   A summary of the Early Intervention http://bit.ly/EarlyIn

–   The Fit for Work report in Japan http://bit.ly/1shpffd

–   The Fit for Work report in Australia http://bit.ly/1lv1RH8

–   The Fit for Work report in New Zealand http://bit.ly/1mPWMfx

 

For media enquiries please contact:

Ioana Piscociu, project manager Fit for Work, email: ipiscociu@theworkfoundation.com, phone: +44 20 79 76 35 26

 

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Thank you for sitting, Europe! It costs €240 billion a year.

April 9th, 2014 by Stephen Bevan, The Work Foundation

The tentative and delicate green shoots of economic recovery are just about visible across some EU Member States. But a major driver of sustainable economic growth and recovery across the EU will be the speed with which these Member States can mobilise and deploy highly skilled, resilient and healthy workforces and rely on them to help deliver productivity growth and increased competitiveness. One challenge is that ageing workforces across the EU are also more likely to be constrained by a growing burden of chronic conditions which threatens work ability, productivity, social inclusion and labour market participation. Chief among these chronic conditions are musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs)… continue reading on the Hanover Blog

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Widening the gap of inequality. MSD – the forgotten non-communicable disease.

February 6th, 2014 by Ioana Piscociu

DG SANCO announced that it is going to host a summit in Brussels this April to debate innovative solutions to the growing burden of chronic diseases on the health care systems and the economy. Surprisingly enough, musculoskeletal disorders are not on their agenda. A door slammed in the face of 100 million European citizens suffering from musculoskeletal pain – one might say. To give you an idea of the dimensions of the problem, this figure is comparable with the aggregated population of Belgium, Germany and Austria. Actually, in excess of 40 million people are of working-age and have an MSD cause by their work. To make things worse, evidence-based studies conducted within Fit for Work Europe, through The Work Foundation, and elsewhere by organisations such as Eumusc.net and even the European Commission, show that the EU economy loses €240bn to MSD annually. MSD is also the leading cause of sickness absence in the EU, accounting for half of all absences from work lasting three days or longer and 60% of permanent job loss.

Yet the European institutions seem to have turned a blind eye to MSDs. Neither the European Commission, nor the World Health Organisation classifies MSDs as serious non-communicable diseases. Why is that? One can speculate that MSDs, unlike cancer, diabetes or cardiovascular diseases, are not considered to be a major cause of death. It is a fact, though, that MSDs can seriously contribute to the increase of mortality rates. People living with an MSD incur the risk of developing other conditions such as mental health problems – 30% of people with MSDs also have depression – obesity and cardiovascular diseases.

Allegedly, policy-makers have given little priority to MSDs because of insufficient cross-country data. One might argue that most people with MSDs are treated in outpatient settings and that most health information systems are rather designed to provide data about inpatient care.  It could also be claimed that MSD diagnoses are recorded differently in various member states, which makes it difficult to draw comparable conclusions. However, in recent years considerable progress has been made in capturing and processing comprehensive data related to MSDs. To name just a few sources, the Global Burden of Diseases and Eumusc.net have released hefty reports on the societal and economic impact of MSDs.

In addition, Fit for Work Europe has been working for five years now to promote the prioritisation of MSDs amongst the most harmful non-communicable diseases and the implementation of healthcare and workplace interventions that support  job retention and return to work for people living with MSDs. With an evidence base of over 30 studies conducted in Europe, Fit for Work is currently testing practical solutions to MSDs in several members states (Spain, the UK, Latvia, Portugal, Lithuania). 

The first results of the Early Intervention pilot that ran in Spain clearly indicates that an earlier, more sustained recovery for working age citizens suffering from MSDs can highly contribute towards increased cost savings for the economy, easing the strain on the health care systems and increasing the labour market participation. As featured in the Parliament Magazine (p. 27), the Spanish pilot showed a 50% reduction in permanent work disability (people leaving work completely), a 39% decrease in temporary work disability (people having sick days from work as a result of their condition) and a 40% reduction in sanitary costs. In addition, it highly increased patient satisfaction, whilst the cost-benefit analysis revealed a two-year return of more than €10 for each €1 invested in the programme.

Fit for Work summons DG SANCO not to be oblivious to an innovative solution like Early Intervention, which could benefit not only the Europeans living with MSDs, but also people with other chronic conditions such as cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular and mental health disorders.

>>> Check independent expert opinions about MSDs and Early Intervention featured in a video from the Fit for Work 2013 Summit

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Fit for Work in Europe

October 21st, 2013 by Cary L Cooper

The Fit for Work Coalition report, produced by The Work Foundation has found that Germany and UK have the worst sickness absence rates in Europe when it comes to muscular skeleton disorders (MSD). MSDs (including back pain, neck, shoulder and arm pains) are the leading cause of sickness absence across the EU, with 44m workers suffering, costing up to 240bn Euros in terms of lost productivity and sickness absence, representing 2% of GDP across the EU. MSDs are also linked to the next leading cause of absence, stress.  There is a great deal of research that MSDs can trigger stress and stress can be the underlying cause of back pain, etc.

It is urgent that we need to prevent and intervene early so that the predictions that 50% of the working population in the EU does not have these problems by the year 2030. There have been some really good examples of early interventions, particularly in Spain.  The Madrid Clinic did a two year study of intervening with people suffering from MSDs after 5 days of sickness among 13,000 workers and reduced temporary work absence by 39%. The report suggests that if there was only a 25% reduction in absence from an early intervention, 640,000 workers throughout the EU would be available for work.

This work is very important in both understanding, preventing and treating MSDs as well as workplace stress, where the number  of workers suffering are growing rapidly and is now the leading cause of incapacity benefit in the UK.  The Fit for Work Coalition and The Work Foundation should be congratulated for an outstanding report and a way forward.

Cary L. Cooper, CBE, is Distinguished Professor of Organizational Psychology and Health at Lancaster University in the UK and Chair of the Academy of Social Sciences.

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Fit for Work Europe patient case study:Ann Christin from Norway

October 16th, 2013 by Blogmaster

After trying to get answers for about twelve years and losing my job over a diagnosis that.. (does not exist).. I found a way.
Watch the full story from Ann Christin on fighting her condition and work disability:

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“Going back to work made me feel alive again.” Fit for Work Patient case study: Purificación Tejeda from Spain

October 16th, 2013 by Blogmaster

Purification Tejeda, a patient suffering from extreme pain from carpal tunnel syndrome, described how she benefitted from the support of an early intervention clinic: “I was so scared about the impact it would have on my personal working life. I was given the right diagnosis, treatment and care very quickly and this helped to take away my unbearable pain. Thanks to this clinic, I can go back to work again. Work is so important to me. It makes me feel useful and responsible. I feel alive again.”

Watch Purificación Tejeda’s full story on fighting her condition and work disability:

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New study reveals intervention that could significantly reduce impact of one million EU workers needlessly off sick each day

October 16th, 2013 by FfW Secretariat

An extra one million employees could be at work each day if early interventions were more widely accessible for people with musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) such as back pain. This is according to a new report from the Fit for Work Europe Coalition, written by The Work Foundation and published today (16 October) at a summit in the European Parliament, Brussels, endorsed by the Lithuanian Presidency of the EU Council.

With many EU member states on track to see 50% of their population diagnosed with an MSD by 2030, the report warns that early treatment for MSDs must be prioritised in order to tackle this growing problem. But it also shows how permanent work disability could fall by 50% if a tried and tested model were to be followed across different countries.

The leading cause of sickness absence across the EU, 44 million workers now have MSDs – including back pain and strains of the neck, shoulder and arms. This costs up to €240bn annually in lost productivity and sickness absence, representing up to 2% of GDP across the EU. The report calls on EU member states to coordinate action between government departments, employers and clinicians to tackle this problem and save billions while transforming the lives of those affected by such devastating conditions.

As our analysis shows, access to early healthcare interventions for workers with MSDs are not being prioritised,” said Professor Stephen Bevan, Founding President of the Coalition – a group representing physicians, patient organisations, economists and researchers promoting policies to improve workforce health. “Thousands are taking unnecessarily long periods away from work or even leaving work permanently when tried and tested tactics could be helping to speed up their recovery and return to work,” he added.

Using data from a two-year trial of a successful early intervention clinic for people with MSDs in Madrid, Spain, the Fit for Work Europe Coalition has developed estimates of the effect of repeating its results across 12 EU member states where comparable data exists.

By assessing and treating 13,000 workers with MSDs after five days of sickness, the Madrid clinic succeeded in reducing temporary work absence by 39% and permanent work disability by 50%. The report explores the implications of these findings on 12 EU member states and estimates how they would affect all 28 EU member states.

Professor Steve Bevan, who is also a director at The Work Foundation continued, “If these results were repeated across the whole of the EU, we estimate that up to one million workers would be available to work each day. This would be a considerable boost to productivity and significantly reduce sick pay bills at a time when member states are under pressure to make savings and increase economic growth. Even if the reduction in absence achieved were 25% rather than 39%, we estimate that in excess of 640,000 extra workers would be available for work each day.

The analysis, led by Professor Juan Jover, shows that if the Madrid results were repeated across Spain, where 26m working days are lost to MSDs each year, over 46,000 Spanish workers would be available for work each day instead of on sick leave. As the table below indicates, the numbers for 11 other EU member states are equally striking. For example, in Germany, the 217 million working days lost each year to MSDs could be reduced by around 480,000 (39%) if the Madrid clinic results were replicated – or by over 300,000 (if a more conservative estimate of 25% were achieved).

Purification Tejeda, a patient suffering from extreme pain from carpal tunnel syndrome, described how she benefited from the support of an early intervention clinic: “I was so scared about the impact it would have on my personal working life. I was given the right diagnosis, treatment and care very quickly and this helped to take away my unbearable pain. Thanks to this clinic, I can go back to work again. Work is so important to me. It makes me feel useful and responsible. I feel alive again.”

The full findings of the research is being presented at a summit  hosted by the Fit for Work Europe Coalition taking place at the European Parliament today (16 October). It will be attended by the Lithuanian Minister for Health of the EU and international delegates from welfare and health government departments, businesses and healthcare organisations.

 Ends

Table showing data from 12 member states (70% of the EU workforce)

As the way patients are referred to early intervention services varies considerably between countries, this data is based on a more cautious estimate scenario of 25% instead of the 39% improvement rate achieved in the Madrid clinic. Nonetheless, the number of lost working days avoided even in this conservative estimate would still be substantial and show the significant impact that wider access to early intervention could have across the EU.   

 

Country Days lost to MSDs each year Number available to work if Madrid results replicated Number available to work with just a 25% reduction
Germany 217m 479,973 307,675
UK 35m 62,045 39,773
Spain 26m 46,091 29,545
Poland 21.7m 38,538 24,704
France 13.4m 23,724 15,208
Austria 7.7m 13,650   8,750
Ireland 7m 12,409   7,955
Finland 5.15m  9,142   5,860
Romania 3.15m  5,594   3,586
Slovenia 2.47m  4,379   2,807
Greece 1.2m  2,472   1,584
Estonia 1.02m  1,815   1,164
       
TOTAL 340.79m  699,832 448,610

Notes to editors

  1. An infographic (attached) is being launched at the 5th Fit for work Europe Summit, Investing in Healthcare: Breaking down the silos in the European Parliament, Brussels on 16 October 2013. This will be available from 14.00hrs CET on 16 October 2013 or from The Work Foundation media team in advance.
  2. Professor Stephen Bevan, Founding President of Fit for Work Europe and a director at The Work Foundation along with Fit for Work Co-presidents, Antonyia Parvanova MEP, Dame Carol Black and Professor Paul Emery are available for interviews, comments and briefings.
  3. Fit for Work Europe is a multi-stakeholder Coalition, driving policy and practice change across the work and health agendas. We aim to deliver more investment in sustainable healthcare by promoting and implementing early intervention practices. Research shows this approach is the most effective way of ensuring people with MSDs (musculoskeletal disorders) can enter and remain in work across the EU and globally.
  4. Fit for Work Europe is a project led by The Work Foundation, supported by AbbVie and GE Healthcare. For more information, please visit, www.fitforworkeurope.eu
  5. The Work Foundation aims to be the leading independent, international authority on work and its future, influencing policy and practice for the benefit of society. The Work Foundation is part of Lancaster University – an alliance that enables both organisations to further enhance their impact.
  6. AbbVie is a global, research-based biopharmaceutical company formed in 2013 following separation from Abbott. The company’s mission is to use its expertise, dedicated people and unique approach to innovation to develop and market advanced therapies that address some of the world’s most complex and serious diseases. In 2013, AbbVie employs approximately 21,000 people worldwide and markets medicines in more than 170 countries. For further information on the company and its people, portfolio and commitments, please visit www.abbvie.co.uk.
  7. GE Healthcare provides transformational medical technologies and services to meet the demand for increased access, enhanced quality and more affordable healthcare around the world.  GE (traded as NYSE: GE) works on things that matter – great people and technologies taking on tough challenges. From medical imaging, software & IT, patient monitoring and diagnostics to drug discovery, biopharmaceutical manufacturing technologies and performance improvement solutions, GE Healthcare helps medical professionals deliver great healthcare to their patients. Please visit www3.gehealthcare.com.

 

Media enquiries:

Ioana Piscociu +44 20 7976 3526  ipiscociu@theworkfoundation.com

OR

Angelo Evangelou +44 207 976 3597  aevangelou@theworkfoundation.com

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Good Health? Yes Minister – whatever your portfolio

October 15th, 2013 by Stephen Bevan, The Work Foundation

It may sound trite, but the old saying that ‘every minister should be a Health Minister’ has never been more true than today. It’s obvious, to me at least, that ministers overseeing planning and transport policy, for example, should be thinking about the opportunities they have to help citizens walk or cycle safely. Finance Ministers should consider whether some citizens’ wellbeing is disproportionately compromised by austerity measures and Employment Ministers should routinely think about ways of helping those with chronic ill health or disabilities have access to fulfilling working lives if they aspire to them.

All sounds very utopian, doesn’t it? Yet if we are to develop more strategic and joined-up approaches to preventative public health, this is exactly the kind of thinking that we need to encourage among policymakers across all developed Western economies. The fact that we are doing everything we can to minimise, control and reduce healthcare costs is a sign of the austere and narrowly-focused times we live in and perhaps we should think more about where we ‘invest’ for longer term benefit rather than just cutting to hit a short-term budget target. Currently, spending on preventative healthcare across all EU member states represents only 3% of the total, while over 70% is spent on managing the care of people with chronic conditions – an increasing number of whom will be of working-age. Unless we find ways of investing in proactive and joined-up health initiatives which are about town planning, employment and public health, we will find that the much-celebrated capacity of our health system to treat people once they become ill will run out of resources.

This week in Brussels, The Work Foundation, through our Fit for Work Europe Coalition, is hosting a major summit on this very theme. Called Investing in Healthcare: Breaking down the Silos, endorsed by the Lithuanian Presidency of the EU and featuring contributions from eminent speakers such as Vytenis Andriukaitis, Health Minister, Lithuania,  Dr Roberto Bertolini of the World Health Organisation Europe; Dame Carol Black, Co-President of the Fit for Work Europe Coalition; Gianni Pittella, Vice-President, European Parliament  and Dr. F. Jesús Alvarez Hidalgo, Principal Administrator, Unit Heath, Safety and Hygiene at Work, DG EMPL,  European Commission  this event will highlight examples from across the EU of innovative thinking which suggests that a ‘Health in all policies’ approach may still be possible and certainly desirable.

Our specific interest in this event is to showcase what can happen if the health needs of people of working-age are prioritised so that they can benefit from quicker diagnosis, earlier interventions which allow them to remain active in the labour market and support from employers which allows them to access and flourish in good quality and secure jobs. We will hear examples from Latvia, Sweden, Ireland, Spain and Germany. We’ll also be challenging policymakers both in Brussels and in national governments to act now to break down policy thinking in silos which prevent joined-up and forward-looking action which just might stand a chance of defusing the public health time bomb which we all know is ticking away.

 

 

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NICE to examine employers’ role in improving the health of employees – but what about the other parts of the puzzle?

July 16th, 2013 by Blogmaster

Fit for Work UK coalition chair, Professor Stephen Bevan, welcomes new NICE guidance for employers on helping people with long-term conditions to continue working, but warns that to make an impact, healthcare practitioners will need to be much more involved in their patients’ work outcomes.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has today finished its consultation on the draft scope of new public health guidance on “workplace policy and management practices to improve the health of employees”. This guidance, aimed at line managers and HR professionals in all sectors of business, will give advice on promoting employee wellbeing, including managing sickness absence and return to work.

This is a vital area for NICE to be looking at. As Fit for Work coalition member Steve Boorman blogged in June, at a recent think tank event on employers and health, an overwhelming number of speakers pointed to competence and capability of management and leadership as a key factor of people remaining in work. It is encouraging that this guidance is being developed and it comes soon after the announcement that the government has finally asked NICE to go beyond this traditional healthcare system perspective to take more of a societal perspective, as I blogged last month.

While employers have a key role in helping people with long-term conditions like musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), better support from line management is only one part of addressing this issue.  It is absolutely vital to build better integration between health and work and to involve healthcare practitioners in the employment outcomes of their patients.

The Department for Work and Pensions took an important step in this direction last week, announcing a two year pilot scheme that will give people on Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) – the main benefit for people with long-term conditions or who are disabled – regular appointments with healthcare professionals with the aim of removing barriers to work.

However, the same links are not being made by the Department of Health and NHS England.  For example, although employment is a measured outcome in the National Outcomes Framework, it is not part of the Clinical Commissioning Groups Outcome Indicator Set (CCG OIS).  Healthcare practitioners are currently not being supported and incentivised to treat health as a clinical outcome.

Helping people with long-term conditions to return to or remain in work is an important issue; the impact of long-term conditions on work and productivity is only going to grow.  Just MSDs cause 7.5 million days lost due to work-related ill health each year[i], while up to 40% of people with rheumatoid arthritis leave work within five years of diagnosis[ii]. Rheumatoid arthritis alone costs the economy £1.8 billion a year in sick leave and work related disability[iii].

This is an area that no one stakeholder can tackle alone. We hope that the current Health Select Committee Inquiry on the Management of Long Term Conditions will prompt action from NHS England to join employers and the DWP in addressing this issue.

___________________________________

[i] Stress, depression or anxiety and musculoskeletal disorders accounted for the majority of days lost due to work-related ill health, 10.4 and 7.5 million days respectively http://www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/dayslost.htm

[ii] The Work Foundation: Management of Long Term Conditions- The Work Foundation’s submission to the Health Committee, March 2013 Available at: http://www.theworkfoundation.com/Assets/Docs/Reports/The%20Work%20Foundation%20LTC%20submission%20final.pdf

[iii]  “We estimate that the Rheumatoid arthritis costs the NHS around £560 million a year in healthcare costs with the majority of this in the acute sector. The additional cost to the economy of sick leave and work-related disability is £1.8 billion a year”. National Audit Office, Services for people with rheumatoid arthritis, July 2009  http://www.nao.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2009/07/0809823.pdf

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What impact will the NICE quality standard on Rheumatoid Arthritis have on workers with the disease?

July 1st, 2013 by JamieHewitt

Earlier last week the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) published a quality standard on rheumatoid arthritis. Jamie Hewitt, government affairs manager at the National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society (NRAS), looks at the quality standard and its implications for work.

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic disease that occurs when the immune system attacks the body instead of defending it, causing inflammation that often results in serious damage to bones, joints and tendons, and can also affect internal organs like the heart, eyes and lungs. Currently the disease affects an estimated 690,000 people across the UK.

To date, outcomes for RA patients in the English NHS have been very mixed, resulting in very negative impacts on people’s ability to work in the long term. Although the disease can strike at any age from the age of 16 upwards, three quarters of people with RA are first diagnosed when of working age – with the largest cohort being over 40 years old – at the height of their wage earning potential.

Indeed the National Audit Office has calculated that sickness absence and worklessness caused by the disease amounting to an estimated £1.8 billion per year. Additional NRAS research has also found that almost a third of people with RA have given up work as a result of their disease, with well over a quarter doing so within one year of diagnosis, and over half doing so within six years.

Ensuring people are able to stay in work is therefore absolutely vital – but not just in pure economic terms –the psychological impact on patients is also important. For instance, an NRAS survey of members with the disease found that 88 per cent of respondents said that having a job helped them cope with the disease with incidences of depression are significantly higher among non-workers than workers.

So how does the new NICE quality standard on RA help? Put simply, it contains seven quality statements that, if implemented, should deliver high quality care to people with RA who show early signs and symptoms of the disease. We hope they will improve clinical outcomes for patients and enable them to stay in work, or make a swift return to work.

The new document places particular emphasis on early diagnosis and treatment. It recommends that people with suspected persistent synovitis be referred to a rheumatology service within three working days of presentation, be assessed by a rheumatology services within three weeks of referral, and offered disease modifying anti rheumatic drugs within six weeks of referral.

These statements reinforce the mantra of treating patients within the 12 week ‘window of opportunity’ from symptom onset as identified in existing NICE guidelines on RA. The existing guidelines point out compelling evidence that patients who are given treatment within 12 weeks of experiencing symptoms stand a much better chance of recovery. In practice, this means that patients can have a much better quality of life, including the ability to hold down employment and be free from the effects of substantial, irreversible joint damage.

By setting out the maximum time that should elapse between each stage of the referral process we hope that patients and healthcare professionals will be better able to identify delays, and put in processes to reduce and eliminate unnecessary delays. Properly implemented, the new NICE quality standard could lead to significant improvements in work outcomes for these patients.

However, a word of caution. Although we strongly welcome the introduction of the NICE quality standard, it is not a silver bullet. Earlier last week, to coincide with the launch of the first ever national RA Awareness Week, NRAS published a report about public awareness of the disease called ‘Breaking Down Barriers’. The report notes the significant challenges to improving clinical outcomes (and associated work outcomes) posed by the patient themselves. Poor public awareness of the disease symptoms means that half of all patients delay seeing their GP for around 12 weeks. A fifth delay seeing their GP for a year or more. At a stroke, the 12 week ‘window of opportunity’ can quite literally go straight out of the window.

The job is not yet finished. Yes, effective systems need to be put in place which incentivise speedy referral, diagnosis and access to appropriate, effective treatments. But at the same time this must be aligned with greater public awareness of the disease in the first place. Only through a combination of the two are we likely to see dramatic improvements in work outcomes for RA patients.

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Work as a Clinical Outcome: Fit for Work Presentation at Seoul HTA Conference

June 18th, 2013 by Stephen Bevan, The Work Foundation

Today (18 June) in Seoul, South Korea, I presented some of our Fit for Work research at the annual conference of Health Technology Assessment International (HTAi) – one of the largest gatherings of health economists in the world; the presentations of which are available to download. Our session had the title:

How Health Technology Assessments can consider Labour Market Participation and Work Productivity as a Clinical Outcome: Comparative case studies of international practice.

Dr Marieke Krol

The number of individuals of working age living with at least one chronic condition is increasing due to the effects of population ageing, poor lifestyle choices and later retirement. Most individuals with long-term conditions want to work, but many are denied this opportunity because some employers and healthcare professionals fail to recognise that being in good quality work can aid condition management and rehabilitation, ultimately reducing the economic burden on the state, employers and households. Yet, in many countries the HTA regimes do not take into account labour market outcomes when assessing the cost-effectiveness of interventions.

During the last year, the Fit for Work Europe Coalition has brought together experts from across the globe to explore evidence for the inclusion of a wider societal perspective in healthcare decision-making. Despite methodological issues, evidence suggests that macro cross-governmental decisions between healthcare, labour, and welfare departments could apply HTA as a way of counteracting the effects of ageing and rise in disability on labour market participation and work productivity. Our eight case studies found that the scope of HTA agencies, and the incentives to adopt the results of HTA differ between countries, which limits the ability of HTA to consider a wide range of investments (such as new treatments and devices), as well as the implementation of  recommendations informed by HTA. The panel compared the use of societal and payer perspectives in health decision-making internationally, and provided practical recommendations for health economists and policymakers.

Dr Rupendra ShresthaThe session was chaired by Dr Chris Henshall an associate professor of the health economics research group at Brunel University and visiting fellow at the centre for health economics at the University of York. As well as myself, we were joined by Dr Marieke Krol of the institute for medical technology assessment at the Erasmus University in the Netherlands and Dr Rupendra Shrestra who is a research fellow of the NHMRC clinical trials centre at the Sydney Medical School at The University of Sydney in Australia.

The consensus of the presentations and the panel discussion was that work productivity data could enhance healthcare decision-making in many cases, especially where people of working age ran a high risk of leaving the labour market as a result of their health. Dr Shrestra presented data from Australia which showed that 58% of men between the ages of 45-64 years who leave the labour market, do so because of a health condition. Dr Krol suggested that, from her analysis, if work productivity were included routinely in health economic assessments of medical interventions, approximately 30% of decisions to deny access on cost-utility grounds would be overturned.

The panel agreed that, while more work was needed to reach consensus on the methods used to calculate productivity costs, the demographic shifts in the workforce and the need to extend healthy working lives provided compelling impetus for more proactive use of healthcare interventions to help more people with chronic conditions to remain in, or return to, work.

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How physios can help GPs tackle sickness absence

May 15th, 2013 by Sue Browning

Employee ill health and sickness absence is a major drain on the UK’s productivity, with the annual cost of workplace illness estimated to be £8.2billion according to the latest Health and Safety Executive Statistics Report. But, here at the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, we are convinced that physiotherapists can help bring down the number of days taken off work.

In a Department for Work and Pensions report  published last week (7 May), 98% of GPs agree that remaining in work is generally beneficial for people’s health and the overwhelming majority (95%) also believe worklessness is detrimental to health. Despite this, three quarters of GPs admit to issuing patients with fit notes (formerly sick notes) – even where there is a lack of medical evidence indicating that they should have time off work.

Part of the problem stems from  the fact 89% of GPs also say they have  not received training in health and work in the last 12 months, while only 18% have a good awareness of local services to which they can refer patients. Yet we know early access to physiotherapy can help prevent or reduce the amount of time off work a person needs following a musculoskeletal disorder, like neck or back pain.

With 131 million working days lost to sickness absence in 2011, according to the Office of National Statistics, the fit note epidemic is something we at the CSP feel needs tackling. To help physiotherapists play their part, the CSP has collaborated with the Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists and the College of Occupational Therapists to develop a new tool – the Allied Health Professional’s Advisory Fitness for Work Report.

While employees will still require a Statement of Fitness for Work from a doctor to claim sick pay, the new AHP Advisory Fitness for Work Report provides an opportunity for physiotherapists to assist GPs and employers.  It identifies the specific work issues a patient has as a result of their health condition, and the adjustments needed to help them to return and remain in work. For example, something as simple as letting an employee with back pain carry lighter loads until they are better can help them get back to work instead of being signed off sick.

Employers can also do a significant amount to improve the health of their workers and thereby prevent sickness absence occurring in the first place by:

• Creating a work culture where staff feel they can report stress or ill health
• Providing fast access to a physiotherapist when staff suffer from a musculoskeletal disorder – the second biggest cause of sickness absence
• Encouraging staff to develop good work habits, such as taking regular breaks and building some physical activity into their day. This can help to prevent staff becoming overly stressed – the biggest cause of sickness absence
• Ensuring staff receive appropriate work station assessments and advice on carrying out their job safely
• Providing flexible working where this is possible

In order to drive the message home to employers, their staff and healthcare professionals, the CSP has organised Workout at Work Day on 12 June. This is an annual awareness raising campaign, which aims to help both employers and staff develop healthier work habits so that sickness absence can be avoided or reduced, helping people to remain fit for work. This year, the focus will be on the need to improve workplace health in order to prepare for the demands of a longer working life.

We have produced a free leaflet, Under Pressure, looking at the link between physical activity and mental wellbeing, as well as leaflets with advice for workers in sedentary jobs, Fit for Work, and more active roles, Fit for Active Work. Stay happy and healthy at work by taking up these simple tips.  Following the advice in these leaflets would significantly reduce the number of days of sickness absence and cut the cost to the UK economy – as well as improve the quality of life for anyone choosing to use them.

By Sue Browning, The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy

 

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Independent Advisory Service must have the right resources and incentives to be effective

April 16th, 2013 by FfW Secretariat

Last week (11 April) Professor Stephen Bevan, Fit for Work Europe founding president and a director at The Work Foundation, highlighted why the Government’s proposed Independent Advisory Service for  helping people with health problems return to work must do more for those with long term conditions.   In an interview with Radio 4’s In Business, Professor Bevan spoke of the need for a holistic service which uses the input of occupational clinicians. He argued that tailored support for individuals would help keep people in work long term and called for the service to take a different approach to the  Work Capability Assessments. He proposed that employers and employees work together to  find ways  for individuals to return to work.

Research by Fit for Work (FfW) UK has highlighted the immense difficulties people with musculoskeletal conditions (MSDs) face trying to remain  in work.  FfW UK’s recent study of 809 people diagnosed with a MSD (published in December 2012) found that three quarters of survey respondents who were retired said their condition had influenced their decision to leave the labour market. While the majority retired before reaching the age of fifty-five. The findings revealed further barriers to employment. Within three years of diagnosis, half of people with rheumatoid arthritis are registered as work disabled.  Inability to stay in work may have a further spill over effect into the wellbeing and financial stability of entire households which is especially worrying as , 57.4 % of respondents who were not in work had been primary income earners before leaving their job. It was also clear from the FfW findings that work needs to be introduced into the CCG (Clinical Commissioning Groups) Outcomes Indicator Set as an clinical outcome for people with MSDs as early as possible.

As  Professor Bevan says, “Returning to the workforce after an absence can be incredibly hard for people with long term conditions like musculoskeletal disorders, and it gets harder the longer one is not working.  The new Independent Advisory Service will make a difference to thousands of people every year if helps  people work with their employer to find ways to stay in their job. This will require a true partnership between the service, clinicians, employers and people using it and we urge the government to encourage this approach in its design of the service, for example, by ensuring all targets incentivise keeping people at  work for the long term.”

You can listen to the programme again at this link: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01rr7zj

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Is chasing GDP growth the only way to prosperity?

April 12th, 2013 by Stephen Bevan, The Work Foundation

Like it or not, Gross Domestic Product – GDP – has become one of the most important statistics of the modern age, the data of which is regularly argued over by politicians and economists. The anxious wait each quarter for the latest estimate of GDP from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) reminds me of the way the Faithful waited to see the white smoke emerge from the Vatican chimney during the election of Pope Francis last month.

Economists like Jonathan Portes of the National Institute for Social and Economic Research (NIESR) must be getting weary of warning us all not to read much into one set of figures and to take a longer view. But we all know that the next set of figures will tell us if we are in a ‘triple dip’ recession or not, so most journalists will probably ignore Mr Portes’ sage advice and will use the data to either hail recovery, or condemn further decline…

Beyond this GDP frenzy, however, a growing number of thoughtful people are asking whether this singular focus on GDP is getting us anywhere. Indeed, some are arguing that it can be doing real, long-term damage. Yesterday, I was among speakers at a seminar organised by the ALDE political grouping in the European Parliament debating this issue, and how we navigate the tension between ‘Qualitative development and Quantitative growth’. Organised and chaired by Sir Graham Watson, MEP and Dr Antonya Parvanova MEP, (Co-President of The Work Foundation’s Fit for Work Europe Coalition, by the way), the event attracted speakers from the European Commission, WHO Europe, academia and prominent NGOs.

The debate went beyond the ‘happiness’ or subjective wellbeing movement which has been a feature of recent initiatives in the USA, UK and France (not forgetting the redoubtable in Bhutan, which has gone further than any of them). Instead, we discussed how citizens, policy makers and opinion leaders might better use the emerging evidence base to improve quality of life and inequality, move away from silo-budgeting and explore social return on investment models. Speakers pointed out the dangers of a dash to increase consumption as a way of kick-starting growth, especially if this consumption led to negative consequences for public health, inequality or social cohesion which – in the long-run –is more expensive to society.

My own presentation focused on three challenges in the EU labour market:
•    The often non-economic scarring effect of youth unemployment, drawing on the work of colleagues at The Work Foundation who have looked at international experiences of managing youth unemployment.
•    The decline in job quality or ‘Good Work’ in recent years and how this may affect employee engagement, productivity and wellbeing.
•    The growing burden of chronic illness in the EU’s working age population and how, if ignored, it could be a major impediment to competitiveness, social inclusion and the reduction of social inequality.

Overall, the event concluded that chasing GDP growth alone was a fool’s errand and that more cutting-edge thinking was needed to find practical alternatives which can act as a ‘corrective’ to some of the perverse incentives inherent in the current system.

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Shrinking household incomes a risk for millions of European workers with musculoskeletal disorders due to a lack of early diagnosis and support

March 7th, 2013 by FfW Secretariat

Millions of Europeans are at risk of seeing their family incomes shrink and face premature retirement due to a lack of support for workers with musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) and inadequate diagnosis of the condition. Research for Fit for Work from The Work Foundation published today (7 March) reveals that two thirds of people living with musculoskeletal disorders are primary earners in their families, yet many cannot return to work because of a lack of workplace adjustments offered by employers. On top of this, they receive little support from clinicians and healthcare systems.

Musculoskeletal disorders are the leading cause of temporary incapacity in Europe accounting for 50% of all absences of more than three days. Often the condition is not diagnosed early enough (in 40% of cases), leaving many people unable to return to work. The longer an individual is off work the less likely it is they will return, at a cost of billions of euros to the European economy. The report authors call on healthcare professionals, employers and policymakers to ensure that employment outcomes for individuals with MSDs are included as a top priority in treatment and support plans.

Launched as part of the Fit for Work Europe research programme, the Fit for Work Patient Survey shows the impact of MSDs draws on people in Belgium, Bulgaria, Ireland, Portugal, Spain and the UK. The findings reveal that:

• Almost 40% of respondents said the condition has had an impact on their earnings;
• At least 57% of those not in work said their entire households relied on social support as the main source of income;
• 54.9% of people with severe MSDs said their condition prevented them from working or accessing education;
• 92.4% said that they sometimes go to work despite feeling unwell due to their condition;
• An individual who has been off work for six months or longer is 80% more likely to be out-of-work for five years;
• Over 65% said the condition had an impact on their decision to retire early.

Professor Stephen Bevan, Fit for Work Europe founding president and a director at The Work Foundation said, “The support available to individuals with musculoskeletal disorders is often insufficient to keep them in work, and some healthcare practitioners lack the appropriate experience and training to diagnose conditions early enough.

“The majority of those working with a musculoskeletal disorder surveyed cite managing symptoms and maintaining work performance levels as their top concerns in the workplace. It is clear we need healthcare professionals, employers and policymakers collaborating to better support people with musculoskeletal disorders who are willing and able to work.”

Fit for Work Europe is calling for joint engagement at the national and EU level between social welfare, healthcare and national agencies and departments. The report makes a series of recommendations for policymakers, employers, healthcare professionals and people working with musculoskeletal disorders:

• Policymakers across Europe must tackle the impact of chronic health conditions with the same rigour as diseases characterised by high mortality;
• A comprehensive national action plan must be put in place to counteract the disabling effect of MSDs;
• Employers should improve policies around staff retention and return to work, training managers to identify early symptoms of MSDs and refer individuals to appropriate specialists;
• Healthcare professionals should offer more targeted support to improve work outcomes during and after treatment, so individuals can better manage their condition;
• Individuals and employers should work together to discuss how working conditions can be adapted to better support employees to be productive and create an environment in which employee knowledge and experience are taken into consideration.

Antoniya Parvanova, MEP and Fit for Work Europe co-founding president said, “It is clear that the lack of prevention, early intervention and appropriate management of MSDs in clinical and workplace settings undermine the work productivity of millions of Europeans who want to work. Moreover, suboptimal standards of care for MSDs increase the risk of worsening the health of these individuals and has a large impact on households and society.

“Swift action is required to develop and implement policy decisions at the national level that take into consideration the benefits to society of greater prevention and early interventions across health care and welfare systems. This report confirms that investment in health can offset the burden of unnecessarily early retirement and disability in the long term.”

Coordinated action between employers and healthcare professionals, along with early diagnosis, can help individuals to better manage their conditions with the use of appropriate treatment and medication, exercise programmes, education about condition management, work counselling and work adjustments, cognitive behavioural therapy and workplace visits from clinicians.

Ends

For more information please contact:
Anna Kharbanda, media officer at The Work Foundation akharbanda@theworkfoundation.com 020 7976 3646

For urgent out-of-hours media enquiries: Nasreen Memon 07825 527 036

Notes to Editors:

1. Ksenia Zheltoukhova is available for interviews, comments and briefings.  A copy of the Fit for Work Patient Survey is available from www.fitforworkeurope.eu or from the press office in advance of publication.
2. In the survey, 48.4% of respondents not in employment or education indicated that they had been primary earners of their households before leaving a paid job. The majority of those with MSDs in our survey and in paid work are the primary carers.  47% per cent of those surveyed were in managerial jobs. Within three years of diagnosis, 50% of people with rheumatoid arthritis are registered as work disabled. The majority of those surveyed have a diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, spondyloarthropathy or two or more MSDs. The sample is not necessarily representative of the wider population of people with MSDs.
3. The Fit for Work EU initiative is a multi-country research and multi-stakeholder platform aiming to reduce and prevent the burden of musculoskeletal conditions (MSDs) in Europe by developing and implementing practical solutions that support people with MSDs in maintaining work or returning to work, and by seeking to drive policy and clinical practice change at country level through national industry, academic, government, and medical collaboration. The Fit for Work project team runs several work streams, including improving earlier, appropriate management of MSDs, ensuring adequate investment in the management of MSDs, establishing workability as a clinical outcome and establishing workability and work productivity as part of healthcare decision making.

For further information about the work of Fit for Work Europe in 2013 please visit www.fitforworkeurope.eu
4. Tables and key findings from the Fit for Work Patient Survey

 

Work
considered as an outcome of clinical treatment (p30)

Country No Yes
UK 35.0% 65.0%
Spain 77.5% 22.5%
Portugal 45.0% 55.0%
Ireland 55.9% 44.1%
Bulgaria 60.0% 20.0%
Belgium 54.5% 45.5%

 

 

Table 1. Workplace support
provided by the employer

Country of residence

Type of support provided by employer

Health Insurance

OH specialists

Flexible working arrangements

Ergonomic assessments

EAP

Attendance policies

Belgium

50.5%

36.1%

15.5%

9.3%

3.1%

32.0%

Bulgaria

93.7%

25.4%

15.9%

9.5%

1.6%

15.9%

Ireland

30.4%

26.7%

20.0%

27.4%

28.9%

52.6%

Portugal

33.3%

4.0%

8.0%

8.0%

0%

36.0%

Spain

18.9%

4.4%

17.8%

12.2%

5.6%

42.2%

UK

12.4%

43.0%

36.1%

41.8%

25.8%

52.6%

 

 

Table 17. Workplace
support received to help manage the condition

Workplace support received

Percentage of respondents

Country of residence

Belgium

Bulgaria

Ireland

Portugal

Spain

UK

Change
of duties

32.4

30.4

21.7

12.5

13.6

24.5

Change
to the number of hours worked

41.2

30.4

19.6

12.5

27.3

25.5

Change
to the pattern of hours worked

44.1

26.1

21.7

18.8

22.7

30.4

Increase
in use of home working

17.6

26.1

10.9

0.0

18.2

25.5

Option
to take emergency leave as needed

8.8

73.9

19.6

13.8

36.4

20.6

Provision
of equipment or workstation adaptations

2.9

13.0

6.5

25.0

9.1

7.8

Other
changes

5.9

13.0

6.5

25.0

9.1

7.8

No
changes

11.8

0.0

10.9

0.0

9.1

8.3

 

Table
25. Age of retirement from work

Country of residence

Percentage of respondents

What age did you retire from work

Under 40 years old

40-49

50-59

60-65

Over 65 years old

Belgium

0.0

100.0

0.0

0.0

0.0

Bulgaria

66.7

16.7

16.7

0.0

0.0

Ireland

7.4

11.1

37.0

37.0

7.4

Portugal

0.0

25.0

58.3

16.7

0.0

Spain

23.5

17.6

47.1

11.8

0.0

UK

3.5

12.4

54.9

23.9

5.3

Total

8.0

14.2

50.0

23.3

4.5

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Fit for Work UK proposes new measure to help health services support rheumatoid arthritis patients into work

February 18th, 2013 by FfW Secretariat

18 February 2012: Fit for Work UK (FfW UK) has today submitted its response to NICE’s consultation on the draft Quality Standard  for rheumatoid arthritis, the set of criteria designed to drive and measure priority quality improvements for rheumatoid arthritis patients.

FfW UK welcomes many aspects of the Quality Standard, including its commitment to annual reviews of patient condition and the provision of self-management and educational support for patients.  However, FfW UK raises concerns that despite the Government’s commitment to optimise employment outcomes of individuals with long-term conditions and the inclusion of ‘employment of people with long-term conditions’ as an indicator in the NHS Outcomes Framework, these regulations have not yet translated into clinicians’ day-to-day practice.

This is worrying as FfW UK’s study of 809 people diagnosed with a musculoskeletal disorder (MSD), published in December 2012, shows that maintaining work is a significant problem for people with MSDs.  Three quarters of respondents to the survey who were retired said their condition had influenced their decision to leave the labour market, with the majority retiring before reaching the age of fifty-five. Within three years of diagnosis, half of people with rheumatoid arthritis are registered as work disabled.  Inability to stay in work may have a further spillover effect into the wellbeing and financial stability of entire households. In the FfW UK study, 57.4 % of respondents who were not in work had been primary income earners before leaving their job.

FfW UK therefore proposes that NICE should enhance the service standards for diagnosis and management of rheumatoid arthritis by including in the Standard a measure of employment outcomes of individuals with rheumatoid arthritis, expressed as change in the proportion of people with rheumatoid arthritis in paid and unpaid work year on year. A local Clinical Commissioning Group measuring workability in a pilot study has highlighted the benefits of managing work outcomes in the primary care settings.

Professor Stevan Bevan, Chair of Fit For Work UK, commented:

“Employment is valued by many individuals living with rheumatoid arthritis, and those who  are willing to continue working must be supported in their ambition. Too often such supports arrives unnecessarily late, when progress of disease may be hindering work ability and limiting job choices. Clinicians in primary and secondary care should be encouraged to monitor and manage work outcomes of patients with rheumatoid arthritis so as to maximise  employment opportunities and improve quality of life for these individuals.”

Notes
Fit For Work UK is a campaigning coalition established in 2011 with the aim of promoting the awareness and treatment of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) so that they are treated and understood as manageable conditions – not disabling conditions.  The Coalition brings together healthcare professionals, policy makers, employers, and patient representatives.

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Latvian National Development plan adopts FFW recommendation to prioritise MSDs

February 18th, 2013 by FfW Secretariat

On 20th of December 2012, the Latvian government approved the National Development plan for 2014-2020, featuring all the Fit for Work key recommendations on prevention and management of MSDs. As the most important medium-term planning document in Latvia, the plan will now include management of MSDs as one of its key priorities. This is the major step forward in the Fit for Work initiative and in improving the standard of care of MSD patients in Latvia.

Creating and developing the Coalition

FFW Latvia initiative was launched on 28th March 2012 with a key aim of creating a National MSD’s Management Program. The National Coalition includes Project Patron, Karlis Sadurskis – MEP; Project Leader Daiga Behmane – Health Economic Association; Project official partners – LV Rheum Association and Rheum Patient Organization; politicians, representatives of Healthcare Ministry, Welfare Ministry, National Health Department, LV Confederation of Employment, and other stakeholders.

At the first National Coalition Meeting on 18th of May 2012, three Task Force Groups – led by prominent Latvian opinion leaders – were established with the aims of including workability as a priority in the Latvian policy, and setting new standards of care for MSDs to reduce the extent of temporary and permanent incapacity.

Key Project Achievements:

– Latvian National Development Plan (NDP) 2014 – 2020 features early intervention and diagnosis, workability, medical and social rehabilitation.
– Model for diagnosing and treatment of arthritis within 16 weeks from first disease symptoms.
– Collecting data on occupational and rehabilitation programmes for MSDs across different authorities and stakeholders.

FFW Latvia plans for 2013 include development and implementation of a National Arthritis programme to tackle specifically autoimmune MSDs; programme for management of occupational diseases; development of HTA tool for MSDs via patient case study approach, and final submission of National MSD’s management program to the Ministry of Health.

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Fit for Work Estonia call on government to better support workers with musculoskeletal disorders

January 24th, 2013 by FfW Secretariat

Late last year, Fit for Work (FfW) Estonia took part in a debate to discuss how people with musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) can be supported by policymakers to stay in and return to work to coincide with the publication of FfW Estonia.

Over a hundred people took part in a lively debate which took place in Tallin. We were pleased to see a large number of high-level policymakers involved in the debate, such as Hanno Pevkur, the Minister of Social Affairs; Andres Tsahkna, the Head of Estonian Parliament Health Board and Peeter Ross, the Head of the Estonian Health Insurance Fund.

The debate explored recent findings which reveal that chronic diseases in Estonia cost the economy 27.2 million. Over two-thirds (68.7%) of this is due to reduced working hours and absences from work.

Despite this compelling evidence, policymakers in Estonia rarely recognise how work can contribute to improved health outcomes and economic returns. So it was welcome progress when Estonian MP, Andres Tsahkna, pledged his commitment to continue a relationship with the newly established FfW Estonia Coalition to improve work outcomes for people with MSDs.

The event featured FfW Europe Coalition member Professor Ingemar Petersson and captured the expertise of rheumatologists, rehabilitation doctors, clinicians, occupational health practitioners and e-health authority representatives. It also included powerful personal testimony from those with personal experience of MSDs demonstrating how the impact of such conditions can be reduced through the right kind of support.

The resounding conclusion was that chronic conditions are presenting a massive burden on the Estonian social and healthcare systems. Barriers preventing people with MSDs from working will only be broken down through early intervention and comprehensive national plans which improve the management of chronic diseases.

As the constructive debate drew to a close, Professor Petersson concluded, “If the FfW Estonian Coalition continues working along the lines we have seen today, within a couple of years the situation for Estonian patients will be much better.”

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Healthy Ageing across the Lifecycle

December 5th, 2012 by FfW Secretariat

The increasing life expectancy in Europe can be considered an achievement, reflecting the improving quality of life. However, this development also constitutes a challenge both to the governments and individuals. While the ageing population is regarded as a burden over the state finances, individual aspects of the ageing population remains largely unspoken. Recognizing the fact that the longer life expectancy does not necessarily mean a healthier life cycle, then it is crucial to stress on healthy ageing as a continuous process across the lifecycle.

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Is the Japanese Workforce ‘Fit for Work?’

November 20th, 2012 by Stephen Bevan, The Work Foundation

The publication of our Fit for Work? Reports in Australia and New Zealand earlier this year confirmed that the initiative now has a global ‘reach’. With Canada, Israel and Turkey the subject of previous reports (and Russia, Brazil and the USA in the pipeline), the Fit for Work? Messages are really gathering momentum. And last Friday I had the honour to be in Tokyo to present the findings of our Fit for Work? Research in Japan.

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Leadership needed to avert looming crisis in EU workforce health

October 22nd, 2012 by Stephen Bevan, The Work Foundation

Last week I chaired the 4th Annual Fit for Work Summit in Brussels. The Fit for Work programme is a 35-country study, which has been examining the burden of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) on the health and productivity of working age people across Europe, Australasia, North America and parts of Asia. Over 200 delegates from across the world spent two days hearing presentations from eminent clinicians, patients, policy-makers and health economists. Their message was clear: MSDs in the workforce cost the EU over 240 billion Euros each year (up to 2% of GDP) and much more can be done to prevent the loss of productivity and the risk of social exclusion which they represent.

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Active and Healthy Ageing in the EU Workforce

September 7th, 2012 by Stephen Bevan, The Work Foundation

What is the value of living longer if we are spending more of our later years suffering from chronic illness and working much longer than we ever planned? These were some of the themes explored this week at a major event in Nicosia on ‘Active and Healthy Ageing through the Lifecourse’. The so-called High Level Conference was held as part of the Cypriot Presidency of the EU and I was invited to speak on the theme of health in an ageing EU workforce.

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Addressing productivity challenges in New Zealand

September 5th, 2012 by Ksenia Zheltoukhova, The Work Foundation

On September 5 the latest Fit for Work report was launched in New Zealand. Our report highlighted that New Zealand must address the problem of labour productivity so that it is able to extract the most economic benefit from its labour force, and secure high levels of growth.

In 2010 New Zealand was ranked 27 percentage points below the OECD average in terms of labour productivity, and a further 32 percentage points behind Australia (Patterson and Brown, 2010) – something we’re sure their neighbourly rivals over the Tasman Sea were happy about! In addition to low skill levels among the working age population, a significant reason for low levels of productivity is likely to be ill-health.

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The role of physiotherapists in helping people with MSDs stay in and return to work

July 25th, 2012 by FfW Secretariat

Employment plays a big part in keeping us healthy – going out to work is good for us, both physically and mentally. 

Common causes of sickness absence include musculoskeletal conditions such as low back pain and ‘work-relevant upper limb disorders’ like Non Specific Arm Pain.  It is a myth that manual handling or repetitive movement is bad for us, but it is true that if active work is approached incorrectly, this can sometimes contribute to health conditions. Repetitive Sprain Injury can cause discomfort in the arms, wrists and shoulders. Other problems include feeling pressurised, anxious and low in mood.

Early access to physiotherapy services prevents people losing working time by providing a detailed assessment and treatment/advice to help muscles and joints remain healthy and strong. By encouraging people to concentrate on what they can do and not what they can’t do, and by recommending paying attention to what their bodies are telling them and rotating tasks and maintaining good posture, the physiotherapist will encourage an awareness of health promotion in the workplace.

Physical activity improves health and fitness bringing many benefits, enabling everyone to get the most from work and life. An active lifestyle produces more energy and boosts mood, resulting in greater alertness and higher productivity. Physiotherapists recommend that all adults should undertake 30-minutes of exercise that gets them slightly out of breath, five times a week.  This can be broken up into three or four 10-minute chunks throughout the day.

Physiotherapists are experts in rehabilitation, helping people return to their normal activities after illness and injury, advising on
building easy, effective exercise plans into daily work routines which can be incorporated into working time. They cannot only create a plan to help fitness and health, but also consider the risk factors in the workplace, and individual life style that may be causing or contributing to health problems.

Physiotherapists understand that being active isn’t easy for everyone.  Many people have injuries or conditions that stop them from exercising easily. Others simply struggle to find the time, energy or motivation. Whatever the circumstances, some simple physiotherapy advice about how to get started and improve health in a way that’s right for each individual is available. They will work to set goals, know where to start, recommend the right kit, and promote a positive attitude, and advise on frequency, intensity, time, and the type of exercise, at work, at home or in the gym.

Wherever you are in Europe, there is a Physiotherapist waiting to assist you.

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Complex calculations: How can work be included in health care investment decisions?

June 22nd, 2012 by FfW Secretariat

Over the last few years the Fit for Work Europe Coalition has been advocating the inclusion of ‘work’ of Health Technology Assessment (HTA) and other health economic evaluations – you may remember our discussion paper from 2011, authored by Steve Bevan and Leela Barham. But when it comes to ‘work’, what do we actually mean? Helping people return to the labour market, and contributing to measures of productivity, has always been a few focus of ours. It is important to remember, however, that work can include formal and paid, as well as informal and unpaid. Plus, we know from our research that work can also contribute to positive health outcomes.

Given that helping people return to work is not only good for health, but can also contribute positively to economic wellbeing, how can we include it in health investment decisions? This is a complex area. Currently, we need to address the ‘unreality of economic theory’ – helping develop practical guidance on how to operationalise including work, as well as a wider societal perspective, in HTA and other health economic evaluations. There is broad agreement that a wider societal perspective should be included when making investment decisions, from the macro (financial allocations to different Government departments) to micro level (financial allocations to individual services, drugs and devices), but exactly how is another matter…

Another complicated challenge for including work in those decisions, which we need to better understand, is the ‘operational costs’. If a service, drug or device is deemed to be cost effective, partly because of its wider societal benefits, then it is worth investing in, right? But, where in the budget does the money come from to pay for this? What resources may fall out of the budget to accommodate for the new intervention? And how much money will that loss cost?

Needless to say, answers to these questions, and many more, will not be found quickly. But in 2012 we are working to move this debate forward, and inform decision-makers about inclusion of work and a wider societal perspective in their investment decisions. Later this year we will be releasing our latest insights and position on the matter, utilising some of our expert supporters to help ensure work & health together are moving towards to the top of the decision-maker’s agenda.

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Fit for Work Down Under

May 14th, 2012 by Stephen Bevan, The Work Foundation

The influence of Fit for Work research now extends far beyond Europe with our study of MSDs in Australia being published on 13th May at the annual conference of the Australian Rheumatology Association in Canberra. Despite having been hit less severely  by the economic crisis, the Australian labour market is still being affected and it is timely to take a look at the effect of  musculoskeletal conditions on the workforce.

Our research showed that:

– Almost 2.2 million (14.7 per cent) of working age Australians report a disability and almost a quarter of them experience
profound or severe core activity limitations. It is estimated that people with chronic conditions in Australia are 60 per cent less likely to participate in the labour market.

– Work-related injuries and diseases cost the Australian economy $57.5 billion in 2005-2006, representing 5.9 per cent of GDP. At least 43 per cent of all work-related injury/disease compensation claims resulted from cases of MSDs

– Up to 31.9 per cent of Disability Support Pension claims result from musculoskeletal and connective tissue disorders

– It is estimated that MSDs cost the Australian health care system almost $4.6 billion a year.

– Back pain, back problems and disc disorders are very common complaints in Australia, affecting nearly 2.8 million people, or 14 per cent of the Australian population.

– Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is the second most prevalent form of arthritis in Australia, affecting at least 2 per cent of the population and accounting for 4 per cent of the total expenditure on MSDs. Only 31 per cent of those with RA are in full-time employment, compared to 53 per cent of the general population in Australia

As with our research in many other countries, we found that earlier diagnosis and intervention could help more Australian workers with MSDs to remain in our return to work and that work participation and productivity – as well as quality of life – could be improved through more ‘joined-up’ effort between Government, healthcare professionals and employers. We are hopeful that  policy-makers and opinion-leaders across Australia will heed our messages and redouble their efforts to prioritise work as a clinical outcome for workers with MSDs.

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Fit for Work – Timing is Everything!

April 19th, 2012 by John Church, Arthritis Ireland

Work is good for your health. Whilst this is now widely documented and accepted, it is not a concept that most workers appreciate until they are unfortunate enough to experience a period of absence from the work environment due to a musculoskeletal disease (MSD).

Sadly, in Ireland as well as mainland Europe too, a significant number of workers will face this experience. In Ireland, MSD’s are  the single biggest contributor to workplace absenteeism accounting for over 7m lost days per annum and a staggering cost to the exchequer of over €750m, not to mention the lost productivity and socio-economic impact on the family. Most people want to work and these days most people need to work. Yet most are not prepared to ensure a speedy return, and sadly their employers are not equipped to facilitate their prompt and healthy return to work.

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New year, new tools – FfW leading the way on demonstrating burden of MSDs!

January 19th, 2012 by Ksenia Zheltoukhova, The Work Foundation

Since 2007, the Fit for Work programme has looked at the impact of MSDs on individuals’ ability to work in 30 European and beyond. Now that we have collected data from all over Europe, we are beginning to understand why some countries perform better at tackling the impact of MSDs on the economy and the society. We see strong evidence for the connection between prevalence of long-term illness, labour market indicators and the country’s economic performance.
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Fit for Work launches Estonian report

November 2nd, 2011 by Ksenia Zheltoukhova, The Work Foundation

On Friday I was proud to launch the latest Fit for Work report at the X annual Forum of Reumaliit patient group in Estonia. The Reumafoorum heard on the importance of early intervention in reducing the impact of MSDs from a variety of renowned speakers, including Dr Tõnu Peets, Head of the Estonian Society for Rheumatology, David Magnusson from The Swedish Rheumatism Association and Ain Aaviksoo from Praxis Centre of Policy Studies, who is leading on a study of the socioeconomic costs  of rheumatic disease in Estonia.
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New FfW thought piece on the place of work in healthcare decision making

October 21st, 2011 by FfW Secretariat

FfW Europe Co-President, Stephen Bevan, and independent health economist, Leela Barham, discuss pros and cons of taking a wider societal perspective in healthcare decision-making, and possible reasons why work and labour market participation are rarely included in the remit of Health Technology Assessment.

The Place of Work in Healthcare Decision Making

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New FfW Coalition briefing paper: Maximising Employment & Social Inclusion in the EU

October 17th, 2011 by FfW Secretariat

Steve Bevan, Founding President, Fit for Work Europe Coalition, publishes new briefing paper – ‘Fit for Work? Maximising Employment and Social Inclusion in the EU.’ The paper examines the case of workers with MSDs.

Fit for Work_ Maximising Employment and Social Inclusion in the EU

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Fit for Work Europe Annual Conference – don’t miss out!

October 13th, 2011 by FfW Secretariat

FfW Conference 2011 Reminder

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FfW Conference 2011 Agenda

September 19th, 2011 by FfW Secretariat

Fit for Work Europe – Annual Conference – 19 October 2011 Event Agenda

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Launch of Fit for Work Report in Poland

September 12th, 2011 by Stephen Bevan, The Work Foundation

On Thursday my colleague Ksenia Zheltoukhova and I were proud to launch the latest Fit for Work report at the Economic Forum in Krynica-Zdrój in southern Poland. We hope that the findings and recommendations of our research will increase awareness and provide a foundation for action at a national level. Now that Poland has assumed the Presidency of the European Union (EU), it has a unique opportunity to lead positive changes in the way the societal burden of chronic disease and work-related health conditions are managed. The Polish Presidency will also see the publication of a new EU Directive on Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs) at work, which provides another opportunity to put these issues under the spotlight.

So what is the impact of MSDs in Poland and what can be done to improve the situation?
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Lech Wałęsa Endorses Fit for Work Poland Report

September 12th, 2011 by FfW Secretariat

A huge highlight of our visit to Poland this week was the opportunity to meet former President of Poland Lech Wałęsa. The President very kindly wrote a Foreword to our report and has endorsed its findings. He said of our report:

‘Fit for Work is an initiative to improve the quality of life of active workers. I am glad to learn that in times of economic crisis there are people who are willing to promote new ideas, ready to and capable of fighting for a better future.’
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Fit for Work report launch in Romania

May 5th, 2011 by Stephen Bevan, The Work Foundation

This week I was in Bucharest to launch the Romanian ‘Fit for Work’ report. The setting for the launch was the incredible Parliamentary Palace, second only to the Pentagon in size. It dominates the south-western part of the city and many houses, churches and a football stadium were demolished to make way for it and surrounding government buildings.
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Presentations from EU Presidency Conference

May 4th, 2011 by FfW Secretariat

Fit for Work Europe: Best Practice Sharing at EU Presidency Conference
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Reporting back from the EU Presidency Conference

April 26th, 2011 by FfW Secretariat

On 21 April Fit for Work Europe, the European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR) and the Hungarian Association of Rheumatologists (HAR) came            together under the Hungarian Presidency of the EU and Hungarian Ministry of National Resources to hold an EU High-Level Conference the Burden of Rheumatic and Musculoskeletal Diseases (RMDs): Challenges in Work Capacity and Prevention of Disability in the EU. Representatives from 25 countries and over 50 organisations across Europe came together to discuss the impact of RMDs on the European workforce and how stakeholders work together to address the issue.
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View & download resource pack from EU Presidency Conference

April 26th, 2011 by FfW Secretariat

The Burden of Rheumatic and Musculoskeletal Diseases

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Call on policymakers to recognise socio-economic impact of RMDs

April 21st, 2011 by FfW Secretariat

Today in Budapest, people living with rheumatic and musculoskeletal diseases (RMDs) joined leaders in rheumatology from across the EU to demand that policymakers acknowledge the impact RMDs have on a person’s ability to participate in society and so create national plans to address the burden of RMDs.

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Download agenda for EU Presidency Conference on MSDs

April 19th, 2011 by FfW Secretariat

This week, the Fit for Work Europe Coalition is hosting an EU Presidency Conference together with The Hungarian Association of Rheumatologists (MRE), The Ministry of National Resources (Government of Hungary) and The European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR). The Conference will centre on the impact of Rheumatic and Musculoskeletal Diseases (RMDs) at EU and national level, as well as ensuring the EU’s Disability Strategy gives due focus to RMDs in the workplace across the EU.

You can download the agenda below for the programme: “Burden of Rheumatic and Musculoskeletal Diseases: Challenges in Work Capacity and Prevention of Disability in the EU”.

For further details, please contact the Fit for Work Europe Secretariat.

The Burden of Rheumatic and Musculoskeletal Diseases

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Greece Launch Video

January 21st, 2011 by FfW Secretariat

You can now watch footage from our Fit for Work Greece launch below, and in the video section of the Fit for Work Europe website.

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Fit for Work at EPPOSI

December 20th, 2010 by FfW Secretariat

Maarten de Wit, Member of the Fit for Work Europe Coalition Steering Group, presented at the European Platform for Patients’ Organisations, Science and Industry workshop on Chronic Conditions on 10 December 2010. See his presentation below:

Fit for Work Europe at the EPPOSI (European Platform for Patients’ Organisations, Science and Industry) Wor…

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Photos from the FfW Greek Launch

December 6th, 2010 by FfW Secretariat

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Fit for Work Greek Report Launch

December 3rd, 2010 by Stephen Bevan, The Work Foundation

Yesterday I took great pleasure in launching the findings of the Fit for Work Greece research in sunny Athens. I was honoured to be a keynote speaker at the 1st Pan-Hellenic Congress on Occupational Health & Safety, presenting to an audience of 1,200 people. The event was also attended by Deputy Minister for Labour Mr Giorgos Koutroumanis, whom I had the pleasure to welcome to the ‘Fit for Work’ stand at the Congress.

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Fit for Work at the European Parliament

December 3rd, 2010 by Ingemar Petersson, FfW Coalition Steering Committee

I had the privilege yesterday to participate in the European Parliament Interest Group on Rheumatic and Musculoskeletal Diseases session in Brussels.

I found the meeting very dynamic and positive and I noticed that our efforts both in EULAR, the EUMUSC.NET and in Fit for Work Europe are well recognised both by the MEPs and the representatives for Commissioner John Dalli.

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Fit for Work Launches in Hungary

December 1st, 2010 by Robin McGee, The Work Foundation

I attended a roundtable conference in Budapest on Tuesday, 30 November to launch the Fit for Work Hungary report. The room was full of stakeholders ranging from patient representatives to government officials. The discussion centred on musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), workability and employment. We also heard from researchers interested in vitamin D deficiency focusing on primary prevention activities.

The roundtable was chaired by Dr. Arpád Gógl and Prof. Dr. Gyula Poór. They guided the discussion and ensured everyone had a chance to share their views. Dr. János Áder, MEP, and Dr.Miklós Szócska, the Health and Social Affairs State Secretary, welcomed the group and were pleased to support the discussion. We heard presentations from Dr. László Hodinka about the link between MSDs and workability and Prof. Dr. Péter Lakatos about vitamin D deficiency. Then, I presented the Fit for Work findings and recommendations for Hungary. We discussed the limitations of the Hungarian data and the recommendations to improve data collection in this area. Dr. Márta Péntek also highlighted the importance of gathering comparative data from countries with similar health and welfare systems.

The roundtable was an important step in working to address the impact of MSDs in Hungary. I look forward to future meetings and initiatives to continue the discussion during the coming year.

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Best-Practice Sharing

November 23rd, 2010 by FfW Secretariat

This Fit for Work presentation is a working document, designed to capture an overview of successes at EU and at in-country level.  If you would like a copy to use in Fit for Work activities, or to receive a copy of the template to record your own activities, please email us.
Fit for Work Europe National Best Practices

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Open letters from the FfW Coalition

October 27th, 2010 by FfW Secretariat

The Coalition calls for the European Union to prioritise MSDs  — read the letters here.                                                                                                                                  |

Open letter from the Fit for Work Coalition

Open letter from the Fit for Work Coalition

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Presentations from EULAR and Belgian Presidency Conferences

October 26th, 2010 by FfW Secretariat

View and download presentations as the Fit for Work Coalition attends the EULAR and Belgian Presidency Conferences.

Fit for Work Coalition at the Belgian Presidency Conference

Fit for Work? The Impact of MSDs on Patients

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Mental Health and Chronic Physical Illnesses

October 15th, 2010 by Stephen Bevan, The Work Foundation

Sunday (10 October 2010) was World Mental Health Day, and the theme is: ‘Mental Health and Chronic Physical Illnesses: The Need for Continued and Integrated Care.’ Along these lines, our new report, Body and Soul, examines the relationship between mental and physical health, including musculoskeletal disorders, and the impact of these conditions on productivity and work participation.

Having both a physical and mental health condition is common, and the prevalence of mental health conditions is higher among those with a chronic physical health conditions, and vice versa. The relationship between mental and physical health conditions is bi-directional – meaning the physical health impacts mental health and mental health impacts physical health. Often, when individuals have both mental and physical health conditions, their health and work outcomes are worse. For example, around 25% of people with arthritis report a co-morbid mental health condition, which can increase psychological barriers to functioning and the number of days out of role.

In addition to examining the relationship between mental and physical health conditions, Body and Soul explores interventions that seek to reduce the impact these conditions have on individuals and society. This year’s World Mental Health Day calls for continued and integrated care, which Body and Soul also recommends. More effort needs to be directed to integrating care for physical and mental health.

The report also provides recommendations for employers. We know that work, particularly good work, is good for health and can aid in recovery. Therefore, providing good quality jobs that offer flexibility, autonomy and control, can mitigate the effects of health conditions – mental and physical – on individuals, employers and society. Work provides a sense of normalcy, which is illustrated by the following quote highlighted in the report:

‘I felt that one thing that would really help was if I could keep on doing the stuff I did before as much as possible so my life wouldn’t be limited by the condition.’

Our report calls for stakeholders to improve recognition between physical and mental health and to identify, design and provide effective interventions that address both physical and mental health in the health care setting, as well as the workplace setting. In the coming years, the prevalence of mental and chronic physical health conditions is set to increase, which means that employers and health professionals will have to do more to reduce the impact of these conditions on the working age population. Already in the UK, one in six working-age individuals have a common mental health condition, and the costs of mental health conditions in England exceed £105 billion. Mental health and associated co-morbid physical health conditions remain an important issue for individuals, families, colleagues, line managers, health professionals and policy makers.

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Best Practice Sharing

October 11th, 2010 by FfW Secretariat

Watch videos and review selected presentations from the best practice sharing sessions at the Fit for Work Europe Summit                                            2010, held recently in Brussels.

Fit for Work Europe: Country Good Practice Catalunya

Fit for Work Europe: Country good practice Israel

Fit for Work Europe: Country good practice Ireland

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View Presentations from FfW Summit

October 5th, 2010 by FfW Secretariat

You can now view and download key presentations from the recent Fit for Work Europe Summit.                                                                                                                                                    Launch of the Fit for Work Europe Coalition Fit for Work Europe: Keeping Good People at Work Fit for Work Europe: What can early intervention in MSDs deliver for patients and health systems? Fit for Work Europe: A Patient’s View Fit for Work Europe: Turning MSDs into manageable conditions Fit for Work Europe: Turning Musculoskeletal Conditions into manageable conditions Fit for Work Europe: Country good practice Israel Fit for Work Europe: Country Good Practice Catalunya Fit for Work Europe: Country good practice Ireland

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View Photos from FfW Summit 2010

October 4th, 2010 by FfW Secretariat

Watch a slideshow of the photos from the Fit for Work Europe Summit 2010.

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Agenda from Fit for Work Europe Summit 2010

October 4th, 2010 by FfW Secretariat

Fit for Work Europe 2010 Summit Agenda

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The Fit for Work Coalition Has Launched!

September 30th, 2010 by FfW Secretariat

We’re delighted that the Fit for Work Europe coalition launches today as we hold our 2010 summit in Brussels. Keep an eye on this blog for coverage throughout the day — and remember Read the rest of this entry »

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Brussels Event: Antonyia Parvanova MEP

September 29th, 2010 by aevangelou

Tomorrow – for the second time – we will gather here in Brussels for the annual Fit for Work conference. I am delighted to be invited to co-host the conference this year, and will be joined by my fellow colleagues from the European Commission, the Council and partners from NGOs and the private sector.

I am an advocate for evolving societal and governmental thinking to develop effective European policies on public health, backed by evidence-based research. Fit for Work is a prime example for this! I am delighted to see the increased number of advocates for this innovative initiative, and hope many of you will join us in a few days.
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Time to Act

September 24th, 2010 by Dame Carol Black, UK National Director for Health and Work

This week, on 30 September, I look forward to participating in a unique meeting in Brussels. Gathered in one room will be leading politicians, patient groups and health professionals from across the EU. They are coming together to launch a unique coalition to call upon European and national policy makers to develop national plans for improving the working lives of those living with MSDs.

The annual Fit For Work Europe conference and the launch of the Fit for Work Europe Coalition promises to be an milestone development in the prioritisation of MSDs, with, we hope, implications and outcomes extending far beyond the Brussels arena, into national policymaking across the continent.

I am particularly delighted to be part of this Coalition, coming to it with the experience of our UK pilot of the national ‘Fit Note’ programme.

Creation of the Fit Note scheme in the UK, designed to help people to stay in or return to work more quickly whatever their illness, was, we believe, an innovative measure to help reduce the staggering cost of £100bn imposed on our economy by ill health – and MSDs are the second leading cause of missed work after mental health.

I am aware that my European colleagues across the EU face similar challenges and economic pressures, and I am looking forward to sharing our experiences with them at the Summit.

In the current economic climate, the challenges to health and work budgets , stretched by the growing number of people who stay out of work due to health problems represent a significant threat for national economies.

The annual Fit for Work conference will create an ideal opportunity to come together to formulate real, practical solutions to help national health systems drive changes in the policies and mobilise governments to take action. Specifically: to make more Europeans, Fit for Work.

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Join us at the Fit for Work Europe Summit 2010

September 24th, 2010 by FfW Secretariat

Fit for Work Summit 2010: Programme

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Early Intervention Keeps Phil on Course

August 12th, 2010 by Stephen Bevan, The Work Foundation

The news that World No 2 golfer Phil Mickelson has been diagnosed with Psoriatic Arthritis brings into sharp relief the importance of the early diagnosis and treatment of inflammatory conditions if people are to stand the best chance of living normal lives and staying in work.
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Building alliances in Ireland – The Work Foundation and Arthritis Ireland go ‘Fit for Work’

May 17th, 2010 by Stephen Bevan, The Work Foundation

We continue to take the ‘Fit for Work’ messages to National Governments wherever we can. Already, since the launch of the Irish report, we have briefed two prominent Irish Government Ministers. We have, among other things, called for a National Clinical Director for MSDs together with the formulation of a National Service Framework on MSDs in order to cement the clinical and labour market priority which Ireland should be given to MSDs in Ireland.

Last week I was a ‘witness’ – together with John Church, CEO of Arthritis Ireland – at a session of the Oireachtas Committee on Enterprise, Trade and Employment in the Irish Parliament – the rough equivalent of a Select Committee here in the UK. I presented the Irish ‘Fit for Work’ report and John and I were questioned for an hour by several Deputies and Senators, who were very interested in the implications of our research for Irish labour market policy.

Earlier in the day Jim Higgins MEP hosted a lunch session in conjunction with Arthritis Ireland for TDs and other opinion-leaders which also focused on the findings and implications of the Irish ‘Fit for Work’ report. Chaired by John Church, the audience heard presentations from Mr Higgins who focused on the growing awareness of the MSD issue in Brussels and Geraldine McCarthy, and eminent Rheumatologist. I also presented the main Fit for Work report findings and talked the audience through our main recommendations. A good debate followed which, among other things, covered the wider labour market status of people with disabilities, the potential for a UK-style ‘Fit Note’ in Ireland and the impact of Health Technology Assessment on access to drug therapies for Rheumatoid Arthritis.

There is a real sense of momentum in Ireland and clear evidence that many of the ‘Fit for Work’ messages are having an impact on the way policy-makers are thinking.

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Spain: Launch of Fit for Work Report

May 17th, 2010 by Stephen Bevan, The Work Foundation

The launch today of the Spanish Fit for Work report coincided with the announcement of the latest Spanish unemployment figures. They make grim reading, as predicted in our report, they passed the 20 per cent threshold which now means Spain has a level of joblessness exactly twice the EU average. What is worse, youth unemployment is close to 40 per cent, again the worst in Europe. On of the core Fit for Work messages has been that we need to avoid people with long-term or chronic health conditions becoming the first victims of a depressed labour, yet that is what seems to be happening both in Spain and elsewhere.
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Spanish Launch – Salud y Trabajo!

May 14th, 2010 by Stephen Bevan, The Work Foundation

The launch today of the Spanish Fit for Work report coincided with the announcement of the latest Spanish unemployment figures. They make grim reading, as predicted in our report, they passed the 20 per cent threshold which now means Spain has a level of joblessness exactly twice the EU average. What is worse, youth unemployment is close to 40 per cent, again the worst in Europe. On of the core Fit for Work messages has been that we need to avoid people with long-term or chronic health conditions becoming the first victims of a depressed labour, yet that is what seems to be happening both in Spain and elsewhere. Read the rest of this entry »

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Volcanic Ash!

April 22nd, 2010 by Stephen Bevan, The Work Foundation

Wow! What a trip. Last Wednesday, I went to Stockholm to present the pan-European Fit for Work report at the 1st Baltic & North Sea Conference on Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine. I was scheduled to return Thursday afternoon, but needless to say the volcano disrupted my return travel plans.

I presented the findings to the conference attendees before I learned about the volcano. The presentation focused on interventions available to facilitate retention and return to work, such as early identification, multidisciplinary and cognitive behavioural team-based approaches, targeted and tailored interventions, work-style interventions and reintegration approaches. The biopsychosocial and International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health models underlined many of the approaches used in these interventions.

Britt Arrelöv (Sweden) chaired a panel discussion around the topics I presented. On the panel were Andrew Frank (United Kingdom), Jan Ekholm (Sweden), and Christoph Gutenbrunner (Germany), and I. One of the key questions to the panel was the definition of early. Early varies by condition and type of intervention but is very important to consider. For instance, most cases of back pain resolve themselves within four to six weeks, so once the case goes beyond this time period, it is time to begin implementing interventions to facilitate recovery and reduce the likelihood of prolonged absence. However, for other conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis or ankylosing spondylitis, outcomes are often better the earlier individuals receive appropriate treatment.

Other points of discussion reflected on the role of rehabilitation medicine and the role of good work, as well as the importance of individual motivation and the psychosocial factors related to recovery. All in all, the discussion was very interesting and well received.

A few hours after the presentation, I learned about the volcanic eruption delaying my flight back to the UK. I thought I might be delayed for a day at the most, but seven days later I finally returned to the UK. We now know a variety of ways to travel from Stockholm to London ranging from driving, taking a train, riding a ferry to a combination of all three! Thankfully, I was able to board one of the first flights back into London and that Stockholm is a nice place to be stuck for an unexpected visit.

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Photos From The Lithuanian Report Launch

April 6th, 2010 by Blogmaster

You can download a copy of the Lithuanian report by clicking here.

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A good day for people with MSDs in Europe

March 3rd, 2010 by Stephen Bevan, The Work Foundation

Today was a busy day for those of us keen to spread the word about MSDs at work. In London the Work Charter was launched by the Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Alliance. The Work Foundation is happy to support it as it strongly echoes messages from our own Fit for Work? Research which has looked at the factors which help or hinder full participation at work among the 6.5 million UK citizens who have MSDs. There was good coverage of the report on the BBC website.

Meanwhile, in Brussels, I was presenting the results of our EU research to a ‘special interest group’ of MEPs in the European Parliament. Also presenting was Mr. Armindo Silva Head of Unit Social Protection and Inclusion Policies, Employment and Social Affairs Directorate. He explained how the new Directive of MSDs was being drafted and consulted on. I presented some of the key findings of the Fit for Work Europe report, highlighting in particular the need to focus on early intervention. Several MEPs spoke in favour of our findings on the links between MSDs and Mental Health and expressed interest in hearing more on this topic. Finally, Mr Marios Kouloumas, Chairman of Eular-PARE – speaking on behalf of people with Rheumatic diseases – explained the importance of taking into account the patient perspective in policy-making, emphasizing that Rheumatic and inflammatory conditions are not caused by work, but can make staying at work difficult if insufficient support is available. This was a very important point because the forthcoming MSD Directive only covers MSDs which are caused by work and not, by definition, Rheumatic conditions. I find this troubling, and it remains to be seen how this serious omission is dealt with by the European Commission.

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‘Talking’ Therapies

February 26th, 2010 by Stephen Bevan, The Work Foundation

I recently spotted coverage of this research, published in The Lancet. It suggests that ‘talking therapies’ such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), especially in group settings, can have a positive impact on recovery from chronic low back pain.

This chimes with the findings of our Fit for Work research which has sought to emphasise the importance of understanding the mental health issues frequently faced by people with MSDs. We found that, for some people, being diagnosed with a chronic condition can increase the risk of depression and anxiety. As a result, people at work might fear disclosing their condition to their employer. In addition, there is evidence that poor mental health can be a bigger barrier to rapid and successful return to work than the physical symptoms of an MSD.

At the launch of our European report in September 2009, Professor Jover from Spain presented data which illustrated that an early intervention for MSDs patients which included a CBT component made a significant difference to return to work rates and yielded a notable economic return. In the autumn of 2010 The Work Foundation will be publishing the results of a further study which is examining the links between chronic conditions and mental health in more detail. Watch this space!

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Pictures from FfW Turkish Report Launch

February 12th, 2010 by FfW Secretariat

Luminaries of work and wellbeing demand action. Read Steve Bevan’s latest blog post here.

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Luminaries of Work and Wellbeing Demand Action

February 12th, 2010 by Stephen Bevan, The Work Foundation

Steve Bevan

This week The Work Foundation hosted a ‘Health at Work’ Reception to celebrate the high profile and progress which the issue has achieved among employers and policy-makers in recent years. But, with thoughtful speeches from Dame Carol Black, national director for Health and Work and Lord Freud, shadow minister for Welfare Reform, the audience was reminded that profile and momentum means little without implementation and real change in UK workplaces.

Dame Carol highlighted the impressive growth in awareness about workplace health which she had witnessed during her time as national director – indeed, she was generous enough to acknowledge the part which The Work Foundation has played in this. However, she called on the audience to play their part in making 2010 a ‘Year of Action’. Among other things she highlighted the progress being made by the government’s ‘Fit for Work’ pilots and the support being given to small businesses with workplace health problems. However, she warned that without the resolve of employers and GPs to embrace the principles of early intervention, job retention and rehabilitation, progress towards improving labour market opportunities for those with long-term and chronic conditions would be slow.

Lord Freud

Lord Freud, echoing the sentiment of Dame Carol’s plea for action, focused on some of the mechanisms which might improve implementation. First he argued for support for those out of work to be driven by ‘outcome-based commissioning’ – a form of payment by results which would encourage sustainable employment for those with chronic illness or disability. Second, he argued that Good Work was an important way of ensuring that jobs were sustainable and of sufficient quality to engage people in meaningful activity, prevent a return to benefits dependency and, crucially, to improve their wellbeing.

The evening, sponsored by the healthcare company Abbott, also marked the launch of our latest piece of research, ‘Spondyloarthropathy and Work: A review of UK evidence’. The report looks at the effects of a range of conditions, including ankylosing spondylitis, psoriatic arthritis and Crohn’s disease, on a person’s ability to work, and examines what more needs to be done to best support the ‘work ability’ of people living with these conditions.

Dr Boorman

The audience was something of a ‘Who’s Who’ of luminaries from the world of work and wellbeing, including Dr Steve Boorman (Royal Mail), Professor Sayeed Khan (EEF), Dr Bob Grove (Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health) and Dr Paul Litchfield (BT). Many other friends of The Work Foundation were present and joined us in expecting 2010 to be a milestone year in ensuring that the health of the UK workforce becomes a major priority for the government, clinicians and employers.

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FfW in Occupational Health [at Work]

January 18th, 2010 by FfW Secretariat

Occupational Health [at Work] has published an article detailing the key findings of the Fit for Work initiative. You can download the article here.

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Fit for Work in Israel

December 16th, 2009 by Stephen Bevan, The Work Foundation

This week I will be in Israel, having meetings and conducting interviews with national experts and public policy officials. Among those I’ll be meeting will be Prof. Tishler, Chair of the Israeli Rheumatology Physicians Union, Ron Wisinger- of the Israel Institute for Occupational Safety and Hygiene, Nachum Izkovich, CEO of the Ministry of Social Affairs, Vered Swid, Chief Advisor to the Prime Minister on Social and Welfare Affairs and Elliot Rosenberg, Head of the Department of Occupational Health in the Ministry of Health. I’ll also be catching up with my old friends Michael Yakuel and Ofra Balaban of Inbar – the Patient’s organisation.

As we finalise the Israeli Fit for Work? report, this visit will allow me to add to our understanding of the labour market status of people with MSDs and the support available to them as they try to live fulfilling working lives. I’m expecting to learn a lot.

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The European Fit for Work discussions continue…

December 15th, 2009 by Stephen Bevan, The Work Foundation

Last week I attended two important events which focused on inflammatory conditions. The first was on Monday in London and was a conference organised by the National Audit Office (NAO) – an independent organisation which reports to the British Parliament on the effectiveness with which public money is being spent.

Earlier this year the NAO produced an influential report examining the quality of services for people with Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA). I was a member of the Advisory Group for the project, along with other friends of the Fit for Work? project such as Professor Paul Emery and Neil Betteridge of EULAR, and Ailsa Bosworth of the National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society (NRAS). Dame Carol Black, National Director for Health and Work, and herself a Rheumatologist, presented persuasively on the need to keep ‘work’ at the centre of the debate. I spoke on a panel discussion during the conference and emphasised the need to optimise early diagnosis and treatment – not just for clinical reasons – but to give people with Rheumatoid Arthritis the best chance of staying in and returning to work.

The second event was in Madrid on Wednesday evening and it focused on recent research (called Salud y Trabajo) conducted on the impact of inflammatory conditions on work disability in Spain conducted by TAISS and led by Pablo Lazaro. The event also featured two short films, made by independent film-makers, which told the compelling stories of two people recently diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis and Ankylosing Spondylitis respectively. One of the aims of the event was to inform members of the audience about the impact of these conditions on both everyday functioning and on personal relationships. I hope to make these films available on the Fit for Work? website very soon.

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The Work Foundation @ European Parliament RMSD interest group

December 3rd, 2009 by Stephen Bevan, The Work Foundation

Today I attended the first full meeting of the RMSD Interest Group in the European Parliament in Brussels. This group, initiated by EULAR, and chaired by Mrs Edite Estrela MEP (Portugal) was launched on World Arthritis Day in October this year. One of its aims is to raise the profile of Rheumatic conditions and MSDs in the Parliament and in the Commission and to help position EULAR as the authoritative source of clinical and patient voice.

The Group has a number of MEPs as members, including Jim Higgins (Ireland), Antoniya Parvanova (Bulgaria) and Marije Cornelissen (Netherlands). Senior figures from EULAR and EULAR-PARE represented included Professor Paul Emery, Professor Josef Smolen and Neil Betteridge.

The Group was addressed by Dr Gigorij Kogan, Scientific Officer from DG Research and a specialist in chronic disease. He described some of the research into rheumatic diseases and MSDs which the EU had funded during recent years and explained how research priorities were decided. The Group discussed whether rheumatic and musculoskeletal diseases were receiving enough priority given their prevalence and their economic and social impact.

The next meeting of the Group will be in March 2010 when the topic for discussion will be ‘Work’. The Fit for Work programme has been asked to provide input to this meeting and we will be working with EULAR to ensure that the content is both informative and provocative!

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The Work Foundation @ Business in the Community (BITC)

December 2nd, 2009 by Stephen Bevan, The Work Foundation

My colleague Tatiana Quadrello just attended the launch of the Working Joints and Muscles Toolkit in London.  She advised on the document, which provides practical guidance in promoting musculoskeletal health in companies as part of an integrated health and wellbeing programme.  Click here to follow the link to the BITC website and download the report.

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Do HTA differences help or hinder accessibility?

November 18th, 2009 by Stephen Bevan, The Work Foundation

I attended a lunchtime Roundtable event yesterday organised by the European Policy Centre  here in Brussels. The speaker was Dr Martin Terberger, Head of Unit for Pharmaceuticals at DG Enterprise and Industry. While the focus of the discussion was the so-called ‘Pharma Package’ a set of EU proposals to deliver safe, innovative and accessible medicines, I was able to ask Dr Terberger a question about the impact which differences in Health Technology Assessment (HTA) helped or hindered accessibility, especially if one outcome was to support the labour market participation of people with long-term or chronic conditions (eg some MSDs).

He was careful to avoid using the term ‘harmonisation’ but felt that, on the science, there was more room for ‘convergence’ around the clinical evidence. He warned, however, that HTA must take care not to widen health inequalities by treating more economically ‘useful’ patients differently from, for example, elderly patients just because of differences in their productive capacity.

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NICE guidance on mental health in the workplace

November 5th, 2009 by Stephen Bevan, The Work Foundation

The guidance issued by NICE on mental health in the workplace is very timely and helpful. Among other things, the material highlights the significant cost to business of condtions such as depression and anxiety, and advocates early intervention as a crucial step towards keeping people in work.

One area is, perhaps, under-emphasised and that is the relationship between mental health and chronic musculoskeletal pain CMP). Over 100m people in Europe have CMP, with over 40 percent of these remaining undiagnosed. A significant number of people with MSDs also develop mental health problems – indeed this can inhibit return to work long after physical pain has abated.

So, care of people with both MSDs and Mental Health must be better integrated. I’ll be making t is a point I’ll be making on Friday (6th Nov) at the 9th International Conference on Integrated Care in Vienna

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Photos from the Pan-European Launch

November 3rd, 2009 by FfW Secretariat

Browse photos from the pan-European report launch by viewing the slideshow below. If you have not yet downloaded the report itself then you can find it here.

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Bringing Fit for Work to the House of Commons

October 16th, 2009 by Stephen Bevan, The Work Foundation

On Tuesday, Dame Carol Black and I participated in a Roundtable event in the House of Commons – the seat of the British Government.  This was a well attended, lively event and I was given the opportunity to make the following speech about the Fit for Work programme:

“For last 18 months The Work Foundation has been conducting research across 23 countries examining the impact of MSDs – including Inflammatory Diseases – on labour market participation. Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) was one of the conditions we examined in detail because we know that levels of work disability and withdrawal from the labour market are high among people with RA – up to 40% within 5 years of diagnosis.

We’ve been looking at the direct and indirect costs of sickness absence from work and of permanent work incapacity attributable to RA. We have also looked at the interventions which Governments, clinicians and employers can take which can keep people with RA attached to the labour market and help them lead fulfilling working lives and make their contribution to a productive economy.

We launched our report in Brussels two weeks ago and we are trying to influence both National Governments and the European Commission to support steps which maximise the Labour Market participation of people with RA. We are doing some of this Advocacy work in collaboration with EULAR.

A key issue (one of many) is that current employment legislation in EU does not recognise MSDs which are not caused by work. Manual handling (CLBP) and Display screen equipment (WRULDs) are in scope – but the duty of care to support those with pre-existing conditions – such as RA – where poor working conditions can make these conditions worse, is currently out of scope.

Good Work is good for health: this includes control over tasks, control over pace & time; manageable physical work demands & an ergonomically suitable working environment; flexibility of working time.

We must reverse the focus of policy & practice from Incapacity to Capacity – the UK ‘fit note’ idea is intended to reinforce this message.

People with MSDs – including RA – can also experience periods of depression or anxiety which can complicate the process of returning to work. Policy-makers, clinicians & employers need to build this into the way they manage job retention & return to work (RTW).

Up to 30% of people with RA avoid disclosing their condition to their employer or colleagues – part of the self-stigma experienced by many.

Early Interventions can be critical, for example:

  • Accurate & early diagnosis
  • Early access to treatments and therapies – especially if early symptoms can be arrested and remission achieved
  • NAO data shows that early treatment brings economic & productivity benefits
  • TWF shows that early intervention can prolong careers and delay premature withdrawal from the labour market and that there is an economic ‘premium’ to early intervention.

There is considerable political focus on incapacity in the UK at the moment, especially as we are seeking to reduce public expenditure. However, as long as the debate has a punitive tone and is dominated by speeches and newspaper articles which focus on getting the feckless & ‘workshy’ off benefits and back into work, we are going to struggle to address the far more serious issue of how we avoid people with long-term and chronic health conditions becoming detached from the labour market until way after this recession is over.

During the Fit for Work study I’ve met hundreds of people with RA and other inflammatory conditions. None have been feckless or ‘workshy’. Most have been energetic, passionate, proud, determined, analytical, resourceful and dignified. I have been privileged & humbled to work with them & I am all too aware of the talent that goes to waste if people like this are lost to the world of work.”

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Gaining momentum… Launch of the European Parliament’s Interest Group on MSDs, and Fit for Work in the Lancet

October 14th, 2009 by Stephen Bevan, The Work Foundation

Fit for Work truly seems to have ‘caught a  wave’.  After a launch such as we just had for Fit for Work, one always wonders what the best next steps should be to keep up the momentum, and it’s fantastic when others are working towards the same goals.  So I’m delighted to note that one of our patrons in the European Parliament, Mrs Edite Estrela, MEP, is helping us to do just that.  She today hosted the launch of an interest group on MSDs in at the Parliament in Brussels.  She notes in the invitation we saw that the “key goal of the Interest Group should be to ensure the greatest possible visibility for rheumatic (and we presume broader MSDs, since the interest group’s title covers both…) diseases on the European Parliament’s agenda and systematic consideration of the needs of professionals and patients across Europe in all relevant initiatives and legislative acts at European level.”

Equally exciting is an editorial on Fit for Work  in The Lancet, available in the journal and here online.

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Is the next UK Government Fit for Work?

October 9th, 2009 by Stephen Bevan, The Work Foundation

Here in the UK the three main Political Parties have just completed their annual conferences – all anticipating a General Election next year and all seeking to highlight ‘eye-catching’ policy announcements. Yesterday afternoon David Cameron – leader of the Conservative Party – set out his vision for the next few years assuming he becomes our next Prime Minister.
 
During his speech he told the story of a man who has been signed off sick from work. He would like to work but instead he has just been put on Incapacity Benefit and forced to stay home. Could it be that this issue is becoming ‘mainstream’ at last?
 
Certainly, and for the last few weeks, the issue of long-term sickness and work incapacity has been high on the political agenda – though this has not always been the most enlightened of debates, as my article in the Times on Wednesday suggested.
 
http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/management/article6863702.ece
 
With the launch of the European Fit for Work report last week in Brussels, The Work Foundation is placing itself at the centre of the debate on work incapacity. We are calling for an enlightened and proactive approach to the management of long-term and chronic conditions among the working age population.
 
Yesterday, The Work Foundation briefed HM Treasury Minister Stephen Timms on our work in this area. Even after completing our research, there is still plenty of work to do to take our core messages and our call to action to opinion-leaders and decision-makers!

Please show you support by downloading and reading our call to action and pledge to get Europe Fit for Work!

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Read Speech from Edite Estrella MEP at FfW Pan-European Launch

October 8th, 2009 by FfW Secretariat

Minister Milquet, Ladies and Gentlemen; Distinguished Members of the European Parliament; Mrs Parvanova, Mrs. de la Mata, Mr Hutton, Distinguished       Guests, welcome to this reception, which marks the launch of the Fit for Work pan-European report – a remarkable analysis of the social and economic impact of musculoskeletal disorders (or MSD’s) in Europe.
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Read Speech by Antoniya Parvanova MEP at FfW Pan-European Launch

October 8th, 2009 by FfW Secretariat

“Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear colleagues and friends, thank you very much for being here with us tonight and welcome to the European Parliament.”
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Show Your Support

October 7th, 2009 by FfW Secretariat

SHOW YOUR SUPPORT!

Read or download our call to action and pledge to get Europe Fit for Work!
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Read Jan Jařab’s Speech from the FfW Pan-European Launch

October 6th, 2009 by FfW Secretariat

“FIT FOR WORK” reception, 30 September 2009, speech by Jan Jařab, Member of Cabinet of Commissioner Vladimír Špidla

Honourable Members of the European Parliament, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is my great pleasure – and honour – to forward to you the greetings of Commissioner Vladimír Špidla, and to congratulate you in his name on the valuable report which is being launched today.
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Read Isabel de la Mata’s Speech from the FfW Pan-European Launch

October 6th, 2009 by FfW Secretariat

Fit for Work pan-European Report Presentation and policy Workshop 30 October

Minister Milquet, Ladies and Gentlemen; Distinguished Members of the European Parliament; Mrs Estrela, Mrs Parvanova, Mr Hutton, Distinguished Guests, many thanks for inviting me to take part in this reception and briefly present to you the work of the Directorate General for Health and Consumers of the European Commission;
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Read and Download the FfW Call to Action

October 2nd, 2009 by FfW Secretariat

Policymakers, employers, health professionals, and patients must act collectively to ensure
continued active participation in work and society and a high quality of (working) life. These are
the preconditions for both physical and mental health, fulfilment, prosperity and social cohesion.

Read and download the call to action below:

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View Presentations from the FfW Launch

September 30th, 2009 by FfW Secretariat

Steve Bevan presents the findings from the Fit for Work pan-European report.

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Live Blog from FfW pan-European Launch

September 30th, 2009 by Live Blogging Team

[18.30 Tom Ling]  An excellent final session that demonstrated, once and for all, the case for action on MSDs at a European and National level.  Now our task is to work together to find those concrete actions that will move this debate along and change the way we keep people Fit for Work!
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MSDs responsible for more sick days than any other health condition

September 30th, 2009 by FfW Secretariat

Muscle and joint pain costs
European economies up to €240 billion a year

New study reveals musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) responsible for more sick days than any other health condition

Brussels, 30 September 2009 – A new study today finds that musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) account for nearly half (49%) of all absences from work and 60% of permanent work incapacity in the European Union. These and other socio-economic consequences of suffering from poor health due to muscle and joint pain represent an estimated cost to society in Europe of up to €240 billion.
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Musculoskeletal Disorders and the European Workforce: The Facts

September 30th, 2009 by FfW Secretariat

Musculoskeletal Disorders and the European Workforce: The Facts

•    Over 100 million European citizens suffer from Chronic Musculoskeletal Pain (CMP) though it remains undiagnosed in up to 40 per cent of cases.
•    Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs) account for a higher proportion of sickness absence from work than any other health condition – roughly half of all work-related disorders in EU member states. Read the rest of this entry »

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