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Back-to-work service for long-term sick to be tendered 'imminently'

GPs will be able to refer patients who have been off work for four weeks or longer to a new flagship occupational health service that is due to be tendered ‘imminently’.

Pulse has learnt that the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) is preparing to put the contract for the new Health and Work Service out to tender shortly.

The occupational health service is aimed at getting people on long-term sickness absence back to work and is modelled on various ‘Fit for Work’ pilot schemes that have tested various approaches to helping people overcome both clinical and social problems that prevent them working.

The DWP said there is no launch date yet, but the programme will start as soon as possible once the tendering process is complete.

The DWP said the occupational health assessment will ‘identify the issues preventing an employee from returning to work and draw up a plan for them, their employer and GP, recommending how the employee can be helped back to work more quickly’.

The announcement came as the DWP said nearly one million people were on sick leave for a month or more each year between October 2010 and September 2013.

The Government set up the support service as a way of preventing people ending up on long-term sickness benefits, as part of wider welfare reforms that it says have moved over half a million people off benefits since 2010.

The service will be funded by ending sick pay subsidies to employers, but the DWP says any loss to businesses will be offset by the reduction in lost working days and increased productivity – and estimates the programme could save employers around £70 million a year in reduced sick pay and related costs.

Work and pensions minister Mike Penning said: ‘More than 130 million days a year are lost to sickness absence in Great Britain, which has a substantial impact on workers, employers and taxpayers.

‘As part of the government’s long-term economic plan, we are taking action to get people back into work. This is a triple-win. It will mean more people with a job, reduced cost for business, and a more financially secure future for Britain.’

Related images

  • Sick Pay Form Fit note

Readers' comments (4)

  • What if the patients want to be on long term sickness benefit?

    Fix the flawed incentives first, then help people get back to work.

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  • 'The service will be funded by ending sick pay subsidies to employers, but the DWP says any loss to businesses will be offset by the reduction in lost working days and increased productivity'
    What is the "sick pay subsidy" paid to employers and how is it funded currently?
    Will this service replace employer funded occupational health schemes?
    If that is the intention, where will the new service get information about the often industry and plant specific employer requirements?
    This - especially starting at 4 weeks sick-leave - sounds ill thought through: are there any more details available?

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  • "GPs will be able to refer patients who have been off work for four weeks or longer "

    Here is the major flaw - which GP in their right mind want to risk patient/doctor relationship by enforcing this if the patient did not want to go for this for fear of having their sick note revoked.

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  • Heard that referral to this scheme was not even obligatory, so how exactly will it work? What about patients with long-term mental health problems? Still not clear what exactly this scheme will do . .

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