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.