Work in progress: Léonie Dawson on managing sickness absence

Léonie Dawson outlines how physios can play a key role in keeping people healthy at work and cutting sickness rates.

Managing sickness absence through delivering health and wellbeing initiatives are a government priority. 
When Dame Carol Black compared the UK system with its counterpart in the Netherlands in 2008, she found there was a greater emphasis in the Netherlands on supporting sickness absence management and rehab.
The Fit for Work Service is being introduced, which enables GPs to refer patients for occupational health (OH) advice after they have been absent from work for four weeks.
Physios were identified as key to the delivering this service. The value of OH support has increasingly been recognised.
For example, the recent NHS Five year forward view in England called for a preventive approach in promoting health and wellbeing at work. It said OH should become more mainstream through giving people access to NHS services.
Two new initiatives support improved access to quality OH advice and services: the Department for Work and Pensions Fitness to Work Service and the National School of Occupational Health, which focuses on multi-professional approaches.
The national school, where I am currently based, was set up to help develop quality assurance in training. It is clear that more work is needed to improve how services and employers support people to remain in work.
My research looked at what needs to be done to help people to remain in, or return to, work following illness or injury. It has taken four forms: an evidence review of the international approach to multi-professional working in occupational health, a survey on delivering an occupational health workforce for the future, a consultation on removing barriers to work and a consultation on competencies in OH.
The results will be delivered to Public Health England. A second report, for the Council for Work and Health, will be completed following a conference at the CSP’s London headquarters. Delegates will focus on training and education in OH, looking at both traditional and innovative approaches.
A review into how training is delivered and what qualifications can be gained will open new opportunities.
I hope it will encourage more physios to work in the speciality, and encourage those seeing working-age patients to develop their competence and include a ‘good work’ outcome as standard.
  • Léonie Dawson is currently on secondment from the CSP as a medical fellow at the National School of Occupational Health
Léonie Dawson

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