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Experts gather at House of Commons to discuss benefits of vocational rehabilitation in getting people back to work

5 July 2005 - 9:10am

A diagnosis of chronic back pain need not be a diagnosis of long-term unemployment, according to new research presented to MPs today at the House of Commons.

A diagnosis of chronic back pain need not be a diagnosis of long-term unemployment, according to new research presented to MPs today at the House of Commons.

The physiotherapy-led 'Back to work' rehabilitation project, challenges the assumption that back pain sufferers will never recover enough to return to work.

Back pain alone accounts for 119 million days of certified incapacity annually, consuming 12 million GP consultations and 800,000 in-patient days of hospital care, at a cost to the state of almost £0.5 billion each year  (1).

Speaking at the meeting, the author of the study, Paul Watson, research fellow at the University of Manchester, and honorary chair of the Physiotherapy Pain Association for chartered physiotherapists said: 'Statistically, sufferers of back pain who have been unemployed for more than two years have very little chance of working again - usually assessed at around two per cent.'

'However, this research shows that chronic low back pain is not a barrier to re-employment, provided appropriate cross-agency support is given.'

The two-year study, which was funded by the Department of Education and Employment, was successful in returning nearly 45 per cent of the long-term unemployed back pain sufferers in the programme back to work. A further 25 per cent of people began voluntary work or work training.

'The 'Back to Work' project, which includes active rehabilitation, job search training and counselling sessions, highlights the importance of exercise-based and behaviourally-focused rehabilitation programmes in returning people to normal activities, including work.

'It also underlines the central role physiotherapists have in the provision of rehabilitation services for people with musculoskeletal pain,' said Paul Watson.

The House of Commons meeting is part of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy's (CSP's) campaign 'Leading the Way to Healthier Lives', which highlights the importance of physiotherapy-led rehabilitation in saving lives and maximising independence.

Speaking at the meeting, Phil Gray, chief executive of the CSP, commented: 'Providing employees with prompt access to vocational rehabilitation is vital if back pain problems are to be treated effectively, or prevented from occurring in the first place.

'Physiotherapists, with their expertise in ergonomics and work-related ill-health, have a key role to play in the provision of vocational rehabilitation in both employment and healthcare settings.

The CSP is calling on the Government and employers to recognise the value of workplace physiotherapy in the fight against work-related ill health. The Society believes that prompt and equitable access to vocational rehabilitation is essential for all.

(1) Alan Milburn, the Government's Secretary of State for Health, speaking at the London School of Economics, March 2000.

ENDS

Notes to editors

The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy is holding a meeting at the House of Commons on Wednesday, February 28, 2001, from 4pm-6pm. Chartered physiotherapists will be present to advise individuals on how to avoid aches, pains and RSI when using computers

Speakers will include:

Hugh Bayley, MP, Department of Social Security Minister.
Paul Watson, research fellow at the University of Manchester, and honorary chair of the Physiotherapy Pain Association for chartered physiotherapists.

Phil Gray, chief executive of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (chair).
If you would like to attend the meeting, please call Raquel Simpson on 020-7306-6628 for an invitation.

Vocational rehabilitation is the comprehensive provision of occupational health, physiotherapy and stress-management services in the workplace.

Media only - for further information please contact:
England: Raquel Simpson on 0207 306 6628;
Scotland: Susan Aitkin on 0131 226 1441;
Wales: Philippa Ford on 029 2038 2429.

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