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.
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.
The Fit for Work Europe Coalition works to promote a multi-stakeholder dialogue on musculoskeletal disorders to drive clinical practice and health and work policy that will improve the quality of working life for people with MSDs. Fit for Work is a partnership of organizations and individuals, and enjoys the patronage of The Work Foundation, the Bone and Joint Decade, EULAR and RAND Europe, and a broad range of stakeholders. The Fit for Work Europe Coalition is supported by an ongoing grant from Abbott--a founding partner--and a supporting grant from GE Healthcare. Secretariat support is provided by Weber Shandwick.