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London trust’s occupational health physio service recognised as example of proactive practice

6 August 2014 - 11:43am

A London trust’s early intervention occupational health (OH) physiotherapy service has been hailed as a leading example of proactive practice.

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The occupational health team refers members of staff with musculoskeletal problems to the physiotherapy service

The service, run by University College London Hospitals NHS foundation trust (UCLH) helps to cut the amount of time staff are off sick.

In June, it was a finalist in the ‘team of the year’ category at the Healthcare People Management Association awards, which recognise excellence in human resources management.

As part of its strategy, the OH team refers members of staff with musculoskeletal (MSK) problems to the physiotherapy service provided by independent provider Fit for Work.

Individuals are identified through weekly checks of the electronic staff record, explained OH head Deborah Mathews. ‘This means we don’t have to wait until they come to us.’

Data collected from April 2013 to March 2014 showed that 7.9 per cent of staff members were on sick leave when they were initially assessed. By the time they were discharged from the physio service, this rate fell to 0.6 per cent. On average, each member of staff had three physio sessions and there were 1,271 appointments over the 12-month period.

Donna Steele, CSP national health and safety officer, described the trust’s proactive approach to OH physiotherapy as a ‘fantastic example of an NHS employer getting ahead of the game in tackling staff MSK problems as we know that nearly half of all NHS staff absences is due to an MSK condition.’

Ms Steele pointed to the findings from the CSP’s workplace health and wellbeing audit. Titled ‘Fit enough for patients?’ and published last March, this revealed that one NHS trust in five does not offer staff rapid access to physiotherapy.

‘We found that a lot of NHS employers are reliant on a punitive approach to tackling sickness absence and didn’t have good rehabilitation policies. The UCLH approach is a good example of a proactive approach to supporting staff back to work.’

Last month, the service was shortlisted in the Employers Network for Equality and Inclusion awards. It also recently became the first UK organisation to receive the International Disability Standards Council’s certificate for managing disabled individuals.

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