Early access to physiotherapy is vital if we are to help people stay in work
Authors: Stephen Bevan
07 October 2011
Since 2007 The Work Foundation has been conducting research into the impact of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) on work participation and productivity. This research has now extended beyond the UK to most EU member states, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and now Brazil. One of the core findings of this research has been that early interventions by employers, GPs and other health professionals can be a vital part of the process of job retention or vocational rehabilitation. With over 40m EU workers having their productivity affected by MSDs caused by their jobs, much more needs to be done to prevent short-term absence from work becoming long-term or even permanent work incapacity.
Today I am speaking at the Annual Congress of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP) in Liverpool and my presentation will focus on the case for early intervention for people with MSDs at work.
However, a CSP survey published today, highlights that some patients are waiting for up to 27 weeks for physiotherapy appointments. This is quite a troubling development not just for those people who need relief from chronic pain, but for those people who at risk of having long periods of time off work or even leaving the workforce permanently.
The CSP and the Department of Health are working together to pilot self-referral schemes for patients which avoid the need to visit GP. We need more lateral thinking of this kind because long waiting times for early interventions can mean that many workers miss the opportunity to continue working. I’m hopeful that the DWP/BIS Sickness Absence Review, due to publish its final report in a few weeks, will recognise the importance of such early interventions in terms of their labour market impact, not just their clinical impact.
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