Taking the strain: Measuring the impact of musculoskeletal disorders
Authors: Stephen Bevan
12 December 2012
Earlier this year the Office of National Statistics (ONS) confirmed that musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) remain the single most important cause of absence from work among UK workers. Looking at the human stories behind these statistics is very important and our new Fit for Work report, ‘Taking the strain: the impact of musculoskeletal disorders on work and home life', draws on a survey of 809 people living with MSDs in the UK. It finds them eager to work, but largely unsupported by public services.
Representing the government at the report’s launch was James Wolfe from the Department for Work and Pensions, alongside three members of the Fit for Work UK coalition: Phil Gray, from the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy; Clare Jacklin, from the National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society; and Dr John Chisholm, from the Royal College of General Practitioners.
With contributions from an engaged and expert audience, we debated the problem of people with MSDs dropping out of the workforce prematurely, and considered what government could do to stem this loss. In these tough economic times and with restrained public spending, ensuring public services help keep people in work was felt to be common sense. Many agreed the NHS needed to be further incentivised to support return to work, for example by allowing NICE to consider work outcomes and incentivising commissioners to prioritise job retention and return to work through the new Commissioning Outcomes Framework.
Meanwhile, many in the audience regretted the delay in the government’s response to Dame Carol Black and David Frost’s Sickness Absence Review. There were hopes this would soon be addressed, and that a positive announcement on an Independent Assessment Service, as recommended by the review, would be forthcoming. The mood of stakeholders at the launch was one of determination, but also of frustration. There is now a huge body of evidence on cost-effective interventions that can help people with long-term conditions to retain their jobs and be productive at work. All that seems to be missing is the political will to coordinate action across government and to effect change. This is what the Fit for Work UK coalition will be tackling in the coming months, so watch this space!
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