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Stephen  Bevan

Government response to Sickness Absence Review welcomed but flawed

Authors: Stephen Bevan Anna Kharbanda

17 January 2013

The government has today published its response to Health at work – an independent review of sickness absence. Responding, Professor Stephen Bevan of The Work Foundation and the campaigning coalition, Fit For Work UK, said:

We welcome the government’s response to the Sickness Absence Review, as the declining health of the UK’s ageing workforce is likely to be a threat to productivity and economic growth for at least the next thirty years. The Fit for Work Coalition has a special interest in the thousands of UK workers who have musculoskeletal health problems, which cost the economy at least £7 billion each year and cause at least £10 million lost working days each year.

“The proposal to introduce a health and work assessment advisory service to support workers, GPs and employers after the fourth week of sickness absence is especially welcome. Our research shows that early intervention is the best way of helping people to stay in, or return to work. However, we are disappointed that the response fails to align incentives in the healthcare and welfare systems. Specifically, GPs in the new Clinical Commissioning Group (CCGs) are not being incentivised to consider work as a clinical outcome.

“Also, employment is not included in the Commissioning Outcomes Framework (COF), which will guide the way they treat and refer their patients. Up to 30 per cent of GP consultations relate to musculoskeletal conditions. We are concerned that if GPs have no incentive to consider how staying in work can benefit their patients, the aspiration of the government to reduce sickness absence and increase productivity may be at risk.”

Ends

Notes to editors

1. Professor Stephen Bevan and senior researcher, Ksenia Zheltoukhova are available for interviews, briefings and written comment.

2. Fit for Work UK is a campaigning coalition established in 2011 with the aim to shift the treatment and care of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) from being disabling conditions to manageable conditions.

3. Taking the strain: The impact of musculoskeletal disorders on work and home life, published in December 2012 by Fit For Work UK, is available for download  

4. The international Fit for Work Patient Survey 2012 is available at www.fitforworkeurope.eu

5. The Work Foundation aims to be the leading independent, international authority on work and its future. The Work Foundation is part of Lancaster University – an alliance that enables both organisations to further enhance their impact.

6. Fit for Work Europe is a unique multi-stakeholder coalition that strives to better align the work and health agendas in the EU and to shift the perception of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) from being disabling conditions to manageable conditions, ensuring that more European citizens stay or return to work, while helping to improve the sustainability of Europe's health and welfare systems. Fit for Work is a partnership of organisations and individuals, and enjoys the patronage of The Work Foundation, the UN’s Bone and Joint Decade, the European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR) and RAND Europe. The Fit for Work Europe Coalition is supported by an ongoing grant from Abbott – a founding partner – and a supporting grant from GE Healthcare.

Media enquiries:

Tom Phillips 020 7976 3554

tphillips@theworkfoundation.com

 

Anna Kharbanda 020 7976 3646

akharbanda@theworkfoundation.com

For urgent out-of-hours media enquiries: Nasreen Memon 07825 527 036