Musculoskeletal disorders and back pain are the main causes of short and long term sickness in the NHS, with 40 per cent of ill health retirement costs being attributed to these illnesses.
The University team worked with Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust to design ‘Working Well’ - a rehabilitation service to help staff with musculoskeletal conditions who are struggling to stay in or return to the workplace. This project was started up with a Health Foundation SHINE award for innovation in 2010.
Working Well provides rapid access to a specialist occupational physiotherapy case manager to treat aches, pains and associated mental health problems such as stress, anxiety or depression. It also provides preventative support to avoid sickness absence in the first place and links in with other specialist agencies to provide a coordinated and holistic approach.
The University evaluated the scheme after it had been in operation for 12 months and found that sick leave costs had been reduced by £25,500. It also produced significant improvements in general health, psychological wellbeing and job satisfaction levels among staff.
The obvious benefits of the service led the team to win the ‘Research into Practice’ category at the recent Chartered Society of Physiotherapy’s Service Excellence Awards.
Christine Parker worked with colleagues in the School of Health Sciences on the project. She said: “Working Well provides staff with the support they need to stay healthy and in work which is crucial in these challenging times. Hopefully winning this award will encourage the sharing of best practice so that more NHS staff can be helped.”
Salford Royal Chief Executive David Dalton said: “The project has helped to reduce staff sickness rates and most importantly made a huge difference to those staff members involved in the scheme, supporting them to manage their conditions whilst they returned to or stayed in work.”