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Joint Working

The health benefits of work have been well documented, and we know that many people with long-term conditions such as arthritis or who have a disability continue to work successfully.

Creative support measures can be instrumental in helping individuals with disabilities or long-term conditions remain in or return to the workplace. Reasonable adjustments such as flexible working, reduced hours, reallocating duties or location can improve the capacity of the employee to remain in the workplace, thus ensuring the employer retains their skilled member of staff.

In addition to these adjustments that can be agreed between employee and employer, the government’s Access to Work scheme has proved invaluable to many, providing funding for equipment, travel to work or for a support worker.

When employees find themselves off work due to a painful and debilitating musculoskeletal condition, they need timely diagnosis and support to help them return to work. For some the condition may be temporary, while others may find they have to adjust their lives to accommodate the onset of a disabling, long-term condition.

Chronic inflammatory arthritic conditions, such as Rheumatoid Arthritis, can be permanent and rely on a range of interventions from primary and secondary care to help the individual manage their condition in the workplace.  The prompt diagnosis of this type of arthritis can be crucial in preventing severe disability. It can cause irreversible joint damage, tendon rupture and loss of muscle. These gradually affect the range of movement of joints, which in turn has an impact on work and quality of life.

Arthritis Care’s Joint Working employability project in Scotland aims to support individuals to ‘Work Well With Arthritis’. In partnership with the Rheumatology Occupational health team within two NHS areas, the service offers a range of engagement options to suit the individual, including 1-1 meetings, email and / or telephone. Referrals are received from NHS staff, DWP, employers as well as self-referral.

The project aims to address the difficulties individuals face managing their condition in work and / or support their journey back into the workplace.

It is acknowledged that working with arthritis can be challenging, with fatigue, pain and stiffness cited as the main issues affecting people’s ability to work. Taking time off sick due to flares, problems with colleagues not understanding the condition, the need for specific adaptations and the effects of medication can leave individuals feeling anxious, isolated and overwhelmed.

Joint Working aims to help each service user find what works best for them, reassuring them of their rights within the workplace, providing information and referral pathways to a range of support and services such as Access to Work, self-management courses, workplace adjustments, training or disability benefits.

Unfortunately, some people may not be able to continue working, and so the service can provide information and support to help them make the right decision for them or look at other employment options.

In partnership with the NHS Healthy Working Lives service, Joint Working also aims to raise awareness among employers, providing free Arthritis Awareness training or information for staff.

Being diagnosed with a chronic long-term condition is not something most people plan for, and there is considerable work to be done to help support those people in the workplace who have found themselves in this situation.

While advances in medical care help people to remain well enough to work, there is a need to address the lack of coordinated support for people entering a new phase of their life with a chronic condition.

Working with arthritis is achievable, if individuals are given the right support at the right time in their lives.

Judi Rhys
Chief Executive
Arthritis Care

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This entry was posted on Friday, May 22nd, 2015 at 11:20 and is filed under MSDs. 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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