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Rising rates of long-term conditions present new opportunities

Rates of long-term conditions and disability are set to rise in the UK and working lives will be extended into ‘old age’.

This was the message that Natalie Beswetherick, CSP director of practice and development, gave to delegates at Association of Chartered Physiotherapists in Occupational Health and Ergonomics (ACPOHE) conference in Birmingham on 17 May.

Mrs Beswetherick spoke about the role of the Council for Work and Health, which offers professional bodies a ‘single voice’ on health and wellbeing issues.

Both the CSP and ACPOHE are council members. She said: ‘In the UK one third of the population will be over 60 years of age by 2033. Many will work beyond extended retirement age through necessity.’

Mrs Beswetherick explained that the UK-wide Council for Work and Health provided employers and employees with the tools to manage health-related issues.

The council aimed to provide signposts to health professionals on how to obtain competent advice and support on health and wellbeing issues.

It has developed common professional strands and educational opportunities, and identified research needs in the field of health and wellbeing.

‘We are working to develop the council into a dynamic, robust and viable group working to a common purpose of being able to influence change,’ said Mrs Beswetherick.

Sue Browning, CSP deputy chief executive, told delegates it was time to  ‘grasp opportunities’, especially given growing support for the business case for occupational health services and an increasing evidence base.

‘There is now fantastic evidence for occupational health physios,’ said Ms Browning.

‘It’s really clear that there is a business and financial case for occupational health services and a really clear return of investment - which is so important in times of fiscal constraint.’

Ms Browning said potential areas of opportunity included NHS staff health and wellbeing, prevention and capacity building, the changing shape of the UK workforce and shifting patterns of employment.

Referring to the findings of a recent CSP survey, Ms Browning said 63 per cent of small to medium enterprises do not currently provide occupational health services, such as physiotherapy.

This picture presented clear opportunities, she added.

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