Reform to remedy cost of illness

FOUR years ago, Dame Carol Black, the first national director for Health and Work, presented her report, Working For a Healthier Tomorrow, to the UK Secretary of State for Health and the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions.

It’s an important document because states clearly why it is so vital to develop the right mechanisms to improve the health and wellbeing of people at work.

Dame Carol says: “At the heart of this review is a recognition of, and a concern to remedy, the human, social and economic costs of impaired health and wellbeing in relation to working life in Britain.

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“The aim of the review is not to offer a utopian solution for improved health in working life. Rather it is to identify the factors that stand in the way of it and to elicit interventions, including changes in attitudes, behaviours and practices – as well as services – that can overcome them.”

For Salus, the research forms a crucial part of its focus. “Having that information set out, being able to see how intervention – especially early – really makes a difference helps us to explain to employers just how important it is to get this right,” says Gillian Archibald, senior occupational health adviser. At one time, not so very long ago, occupational health was something exclusively devoted to those in the workplace. Now its focus goes much further, enabling people with health problems to continue to work, and helping those who feel unable to work or return to work in the wake of illness or injury.

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These are questions that reach far beyond medical assessment. They go inside the lives of ordinary people, their families, their own struggles with money, housing, employment and a host of other social issues.

Dame Carol is clear reform is needed and urgently, and that it needs to involve a raft of different disciplines to create a better structure: “I hope this review will lay the foundations for urgent and comprehensive reform.” “I think there is anew willingness among employers in Scotland to take these questions seriously and to look at effective solutions,” says Archibald. “We’re here to help them work out the best strategies for their particular situation. We aren’t a one-size-fits-all operation. We recognise that different kinds of organisations need different inputs and we’re flexible enough to be able to offer that.”