The importance of Acting Together

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Again, the Health and Wellbeing conference in March this year was an excellent opportunity for me to network and re-enthused me in my mission to remove the health-related barriers to employment. Over the last few weeks, I have been contacted by newly acquainted professional colleagues ranging from sleep specialists and independent Occupational Therapists to Remploy specialists to collaborate and improve the offering for workers with long term conditions and disabilities.

Although I am now very optimistic about the future of Occupational Health, does the HSE’s strategic aim of Tackling ill health address the issues underlying disease and absence? Highlighting and addressing the costs of work-related ill health may go some way to understanding the immediate impact for an employer, but does it help them to prevent absence?

The Law of Unintended Consequences

In 2009, the Boorman review emphasised the importance of creating healthy workplaces and the importance of working with staff.  I would urge those responsible for identifying and implementing new initiatives and measures to consult carefully with employees, especially those with long-term conditions.   Teachers are a particularly good example of how, regardless of good intentions, these initiatives have to be applied by human beings, not machines.  In this case, it is essential that schools can provide consistency of teachers and sustainable improvement in academics and citizenship.  It is likely that students on pupil premium, who form OFSTED’s current priority group, will be a principal beneficiary of these improvements.

Teachers are a particularly good example of how, regardless of good intentions, these initiatives have to be applied by human beings, not machines.  In this case, it is essential that schools can provide consistency of teachers and sustainable improvement in academics and citizenship.  It is likely that students on pupil premium, who form OFSTED’s current priority group, will be a principal beneficiary of these improvements.

Support services provided by the charitable sector:

The Education Support Partnership (ESP) and Retail Trust (RT) continue to impress me with the support available to staff working in their industry sectors.  Despite this, I fear that schools will increasingly struggle to deliver against the government’s changing priorities and objectives when having to cope with growing sickness absence.  Teachers and support staff try to access support, but community mental health services appear to find this difficult to provide unless the individual is in crisis.  IAPT services have long waiting lists for counselling and apart from the charitable sector, employees at risk of being unable to cope with work and going off sick fail to access preventative support. This lack of access is despite staff willingly collaborating to try to find the best solution for their patients.

NHS IAPT services have long waiting lists for counselling and apart from the charitable sector, employees at risk of being unable to cope with work and going off sick fail to access preventative support. This lack of access is despite staff willingly collaborating to try to find the best solution for their patients.

The government’s fit for work programme is helpful where an employee has been off work for 4 weeks or more, but independent Occupational Health practitioners can offer specialist advice support and solutions to both the individual and their managers to prevent absence from occurring in the first place.

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