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Major health & productivity challenge facing UK workforce

Politicians across all main political parties have today (21 July 2014) been challenged to respond to the growing burden of ill-health in the UK’s workforce. Fit For Work UK – a coalition of healthcare professionals, policymakers, employers and patient groups – has warned that by 2030, almost half of UK workers will have at least one chronic health condition which will affect their work productivity and, as a result, the competitiveness of the UK economy.

In its call to action, Is the UK Fit for Work?: Confronting the challenge of UK workforce health, the coalition argues that the costs of ill-health in the UK workforce will far exceed the current £100 billion estimate1 as long-term sickness absence, ‘presenteeism’ (attending work when ill) and work disability rise over the next twenty years. An ageing workforce and later retirement are also forecast to increase the proportion of workers leaving employment early as a result of their health.

Research already highlights the growing challenge the UK’s economy faces with around 17 million people of working-age – roughly half of the workforce – believed to face at least one long-term health condition by 2030.2 In the light of this, the coalition believes the UK urgently needs to tackle the problem with the following five-point plan:

  •  A comprehensive cross-government strategy and programme for health and work
  •  Clear national leadership with the appointment of a National Clinical Director for Health & Work
  •  Accessible information for people with long-term conditions to help them stay in work
  •  Measures that capture health and return to work in NHS frameworks, and incentivise clinicians to regard return to work as a clinical outcome of care
  •  Effective incentives to reward healthcare providers who support people with long-term conditions to return to work

Commenting on Fit For Work UK’s call to action, its President, Professor Stephen Bevan, said: “Over the next 20 years an increasing proportion of the ageing UK workforce will retire later and develop chronic illnesses. The UK requires urgent action now to prevent this trend developing into a crisis of public health and impaired labour productivity.  It is only by developing a cross-government strategy and improving the dissemination of the tools needed to empower people with long-term conditions, that this challenge can be met.”

Fit for Work Coalition member Prof Karen Middleton, CEO of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, commented: “Government policy focuses on reducing welfare costs, but there are millions of people in work whose ill-health threatens their job security and productivity. Simple, early and joined-up action, such as commissioning self-referral physiotherapy services, to help workers to manage conditions such as musculoskeletal disorders – the cause of 35m lost working days each year – can save money and improve the quality of working lives for millions.”


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This entry was posted on Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014 at 08:51 and is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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