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Are your service users fit for work? The new Fitness for Work evidence briefing

As the CSP launches a new guide, CSP professional adviser Jenny Nissler says everyone can play their part in helping patients return to their work.

Are your service users fit for work? The all-new Fitness For Work evidence briefing

Read the new Physiotherapy Works evidence-based briefing using the links below

Read the all-new evidence

For some physios the work status of their patients is a priority. This applies to those practising in occupational health, government schemes, such as Access to Work and Fit for Work, or those holding posts linked to the benefits system. 
 
But what about other physiotherapy services and businesses? Is there a role for physiotherapists in NHS primary, secondary and tertiary services or those in the private, independent and third sectors to advise on work? And, if so, what can they offer, especially when they know little about the person’s workplace? 
 
There is a will, as well as an opportunity, for more physiotherapy services to get involved. UK governments are carrying out benefits reform, and the state pension age is rising – ‘Generation X’ will be 67 – ‘Y’ and ‘Z’ even older – before they receive it. 
 
While anyone can develop a long-term condition, the number of co-morbidities rises with age. As people age, they will be managing their health conditions at work as well as in every other sphere of their lives.

Most people need to work for economic reasons. Meanwhile organisations, companies and businesses may not want to lose the skills of experienced staff. 

MSK disorders, anxiety, stress

The Carter report says the government should recognise ‘what good looks like’ in NHS services, including optimal use of the NHS workforce. Musculoskeletal (MSK) disorders and stress, anxiety and depression remain common. 
 
Staff should be assessed by their trust’s or board’s health and wellbeing services, and have swift access to occupational health physiotherapy. Vocational rehabilitation is being included within MSK pathways across the UK, with NHS staff in Scotland being given fitness for work reports.
 
Outside occupational health, vanguard services in England are showing the benefits of referring patients for physiotherapy in primary care settings. 
 
Physiotherapists are skilled at assessing function and the restrictions caused by the medical conditions, whether these are temporary, more long-term, or fluctuating. 
 
The approach physiotherapists take is biopsychosocial, so a person’s daily life, including either paid or non-remunerated work, is key to the physiotherapeutic process. 
 
So the answer to the question of what physiotherapists can do towards having ‘work as a health outcome’ lies in part in the Health and Care Profession Council’s and the CSP’s standards. 
 
These say that physiotherapists work within their scope of their scope of practice, recognise their limits and know when to refer to another practitioner. 
 
They add that, as part of continuing professional development, physiotherapists can expand and maintain their scope, developing their service. 
 
  • Jenny Nissler is a CSP professional adviser

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