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Government plans new MSK services to get disabled people into jobs

1 November 2016 - 5:22pm

New musculoskeletal (MSK) services to support disabled people and help them into employment will be trialled under proposals from the Department of Health and the Department of Work and Pensions.

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The goverment proposes working with NHS England to collect data about MSK services

The plans, set out in the Improving Lives: The work, health and disability green paper, call for closer links between treatment and employment support.

Published on 31 October, the green paper covers England, Scotland and Wales. Its emphasis on improving primary care services so they support better MSK health was welcomed by CSP policy officer Rachel Newton.

One example in the document is a west Cheshire service in which CSP members work with GPs to provide direct access to advanced practice physios at the surgery.

‘The CSP will continue to work with the departments for work and pensions and health, to see how physio pilots in primary care, like west Cheshire, can be made into mainstream services,’ said Ms Newton.

Lack of data on MSK services

Employment rates among disabled people reveal one of the most significant inequalities in the UK today, according to the government.

Less than half (48 per cent) of disabled people are in employment, while the figure for the non-disabled population is 80 per cent.

The government points to a lack of data about the MSK services that are currently commissioned, however. To resolve this, it proposes to work with NHS England on identifying opportunities for regular data collection about the prevalence and outcomes of MSK services.

It recognises the importance of occupational health and vocational rehabilitation in helping people into work, as well as preventing them from falling out of work because of ill health or disability.

But these services can be inconsistent, inaccessible and poorly tailored to the needs of individuals, the government says.

As a resolution, it proposes a ‘whole person approach’ to occupational health, with integrated, expert and impartial advice, and timely access to support.

Self-referral to physiotherapy

With its bold aim of transforming the employment prospects of people with a disability or long-term health condition, the green paper is open for consultation to people living in England, Scotland and Wales until 17 February 2017.

Its publication follows the launch of the latest CSP Physiotherapy Works briefing which promotes the role of physiotherapists in expanded primary care teams.

A key recommendation is that clinical commissioning groups use self-referral to physiotherapy as a way of providing fast and cost-effective treatment for patients.

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