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Victoria Shreeve

Health and Social Care Integration failing to encourage and support local action to improve workforce health and wellbeing

Authors: Victoria Shreeve

21 April 2015


  • New local bodies created under localism agenda are systematically failing to make the differences possible to workforce health and wellbeing
  • Current guidance for health and wellbeing boards and local enterprise partnerships does not go far enough in encouraging local action on workforce health
  • A review of the remit of, and the outcomes which these bodies report on, is needed in relation to the health and wellbeing of the working age population

A report released today (21 April) - Healthy, Working Economies - will call on the next government to review how it is using local organisations, such as Health and Wellbeing Boards and Local Enterprise Partnerships, to encourage improvements in workforce health and wellbeing. Lancaster University’s Work Foundation will recommend that a more standardised set of measures be included in the Joint-Strategic Needs Assessments performed by Health and Wellbeing Boards, including measures of employment outcomes for individuals with health conditions. The report will also recommend that employer leadership is needed on Health and Wellbeing Boards in order to achieve the step-change needed in improving the health of the working age population and to drive economic growth and productivity locally.

The Health at Work Policy Unit’s third policy paper argues that despite pockets of good practice where areas are prioritising the health and wellbeing of the working age population, central government is failing to give local organisations clear roles and responsibilities around improving workforce health and wellbeing, in order to drive joined-up local action.

The paper highlights good practice examples where policy has been used at a local level to achieve improved workforce health. It makes a number of recommendations to both national and local policymakers as to how policy could more effectively encourage joined-up action on workforce health locally.

Health and Wellbeing Boards bring key leaders from health and social care together to assess joint needs and agree joint priorities. For example, Manchester City Council has had success by setting employment as a strategic priority of the Health and Wellbeing board – council and clinical leadership at a senior level has driven action on workforce health. The paper argues therefore that the Government should review current guidance so that employment outcomes become a routine aspect of Joint Strategic Needs Assessments.

Other key recommendations include:

  • DWP should devolve greater responsibility to local areas for the re-commissioning of the Work Programme 
  • Employment data should be collected through the health system and be used to more accurately benchmark local authorities progress around the health and wellbeing of the working age population
  • National outcomes frameworks should be better aligned around health and employment
  • Central government should pool existing funds into a budget for local areas to access, to tackle the wider social determinants of health (the Marmot principles)
    Commenting on the paper, Professor Stephen Bevan, Director of the Centre for Workforce Effectiveness at The Work Foundation, said: “We’ve found there are examples of best practice where those with health conditions are being helped to stay in work and create healthier workplaces. However, government must now empower local actors to significantly improve workforce health and wellbeing at a local level."  Commenting on the launch, Professor Dame Carol Black, Trustee of The Work Foundation, said: “I am delighted to be at the launch of this paper. The economic and social burden of chronic health conditions, such as mental illness, chronic pain and musculoskeletal disorders on local workforces is growing steadily; yet national policy responses and local practices are still not attaching the appropriate level of priority to interventions. There is significant potential for more work to be done at a local level in order to improve the health of the working age population and I hope this paper will be seen as an authoritative guide and to spur on discussion and action.”


     1.The report’s authors are available for interviews, blogs, briefings and written comments.  
     2.The Health at Work Policy Unit (HWPU) provides evidence-based policy recommendations and commentary on contemporary issues around health, wellbeing and work. 
     3.The report, Healthy, working economies, is available under embargo from the press office. 
     4.The report will be launched at an event on Tuesday, 21 April 2015 from 15:00 - 17:00. More info on the event is available here - 
     5.The HWPU is supported by a grant from Napp Pharmaceuticals Holdings Limited and Bupa, who have had no editorial input.  
     6.Lancaster University’s Work Foundation transforms people’s experience of work and the labour market through high quality applied research that empowers individuals and influences public policies and organisational practices. 

    The Work Foundation is part of Lancaster University – an alliance that enables both organisations to further enhance their impact. 

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