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Stephen  Bevan

Work and health link must be priority in any efforts to reduce long-term unemployment rates

Authors: Stephen Bevan Stephen Bevan

25 September 2013

Immediate release: 25 September 2013

Ahead of the Shadow Health Secretary’s speech at Labour Party conference, Professor Stephen Bevan, Fit for Work UK Coalition chair is calling for all political parties to commit to policies which integrate health and work outcomes for people with long-term conditions.

He said:

It is encouraging that both Labour and the Liberal Democrats are looking to develop policies which better support people with disabilities and long-term conditions. With 140 million days each year lost to sickness absence, at a cost of over £13 billion each year - this is certainly a problem policymakers cannot afford to ignore.

“However, we also need to see work introduced as a clinical outcome for such patients. Our research for Fit for Work UK shows that the longer a patient with a disability or long-term condition remains out of work, the harder it is for them to return – leaving many long-term unemployed. Around 40% of people with chronic conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis leave work within five years of diagnosis, while people with multiple sclerosis leave work on average 18 years before their contemporaries.

“Any policy which hopes to support this group to enter and remain in work must include two key commitments to be successful: recognition of the relationship between health and work; and for healthcare practitioners to introduce work as a realistic possibility while treating patients.


He added, “Employment has an important positive, therapeutic and economic impact on the life of an individual with a long-term illness; providing financial autonomy, self-respect, dignity, quality of life, and a sense of self-worth.

Yet historically, successive governments have not taken the necessary measures to integrate health and work outcomes for patients. Currently, although employment is a measured outcome in the National Outcomes Framework, it is not part of the Clinical Commissioning Groups Outcome Indicator Set (CCGOIS). Crucially, healthcare practitioners in primary care are not being supported and incentivised to treat work as a clinical outcome, and this must be addressed.

“This is not a problem which one political party or department can tackle alone. All political parties should commit to manifestos which join up health and work policies, so that people with long-term conditions can stay in and return to work as soon as they are well enough
.”


Ends

Notes to editors

1. Professor Stephen Bevan is also a director at The Work Foundation and is available for interviews, briefings and written comment.

2. The National Audit Office estimates that the rheumatoid arthritis costs the NHS around £560 million a year with the majority of this in the acute sector. The additional cost to the economy of sick leave and work-related disability is £1.8 billion a year. Services for people with rheumatoid arthritis, July 2009

3. Other data cited above is taken from, Freedman, R. I., & Fesko, S. L. The meaning of work in the lives of people with significant disabilities: Consumer and family perspectives, Journal of Rehabilitation, 1996
4 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.

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

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