Sick leave: DH/DWP urge agencies to bid for back to work pilots

The government today called on councils and primary care trusts to bid to pilot a new multi-agency service geared towards getting people on sickness absence back into work.

The Department of Health and Department for Work and Pensions want to test the feasibility of a ‘Fit for Work’ service, combining employment and skills advice, health services to support rehabilitation, debt or housing advice and conciliation in disputes between employees and employers.

Carol Black

The £13m plan is based on a proposal in national director for health and work Carol Black’s report on workplace health, published last March, which proposed comprehensive reforms, many of which were adopted by the government last November.

Care services minister Phil Hope said he wanted councils, PCTs and other agencies to get involved in the pilots, which are due to begin later this year.

Too many written off

Mental health charity Mind welcomed today’s announcement. Head of policy and campaigns Vicki Nash said: “Far too many people are simply written off by their employers and health professionals when what they really need is support to retain their jobs and get back to good health.”

She said the pilots were “an important first step in providing people with the support they deserve” but stressed that employers also needed to make sure they were providing staff with a “mentally healthy workplace”.

The government has also accepted Black’s proposal to replace paper-based sick notes with electronic ‘fit notes’, designed to help GPs focus on what people can do rather than what they cannot, and improve the flow of information between employers, individuals and doctors.

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