CSP calls on the government to address NHS waiting times in response to sickness absence crisis

Last week the CSP responded to Rishi Sunak’s speech in which he declared that Britain is suffering from a 'sicknote culture'.

The CSP featured widely in the media drawing attention to the pivotal role that physiotherapists play in supporting people back to work. 

Ash James, director of practice and development was interviewed on by Jim Diamond on LBC, you can listen to the interview here.

The Press Association also included comment from the CSP. The article ran in more than 200 local, regional and national publications. You can read the article in read the article in The Independent. 

CSP comment was also included in the Guardian’s live blog

Rishi Sunak said that the fit note system has 'opened the floodgates for millions of people to be written off work and into welfare without getting the right support and treatment they might need to help them stay in work.'

But in the prime minister’s assessment, he failed to address the long NHS waiting times including for musculoskeletal (MSK) services which currently stand at 302,735 people in England alone. 

Ash said: 

Too many people are being signed off sick but the prime minister should look closer to home for the causes. 

There are long waiting times for NHS services for musculoskeletal conditions, such as back and neck pain – the second most common reason for sickness absence. 

Long waits lead to more complex problems and we know that the greater the amount of time someone is off work, the less likely they are ever to return. 

The prime minister also referenced having specialist work and health professionals charged with responsibility for issuing fit notes instead of GPs in a bid to end the 'sick note culture'. 

Physiotherapists and occupational therapists have already been added to the list of those that can issue a fit note due to their expertise in the field and understanding of workplace environments. 

So it is vital that any new system makes full use of that expertise to help people return to work or avoid an absence in the first place. 

Ash responded to this point:

‘Additional support to help people stay in work, or return as quickly as possible, is obviously a good thing and physiotherapists are experts in identifying a person’s needs and putting place a rehab plan, including any adaptations that can be made in the workplace. 

‘But until the government gets on top of NHS waiting times by addressing the serious workforce crisis across a whole range of professions including physiotherapy, too many people will continue to be let down and forced out of work.’ 

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