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