Doctors specialising in Occupational Health (OH) are spearheading efforts to reintegrate long-term sick individuals back into the workforce. The pioneering care pathway, designed by professionals like Dr. Shriti Pattani at Northwick Park Hospital in Harrow, is revolutionising the approach to getting people back on their feet.
Under the new system, patients are referred by their General Practitioners (GPs) to OH clinicians who conduct comprehensive assessments of the individual’s health and functioning. Dr. Pattani, who developed the pathway based on her own experiences as a GP, emphasises the importance of dedicating time to delve into the core of the problem and identify practical solutions that benefit both the individual and their employer.
“It isn’t rocket science, but you need time to get to the crux of the problem and find practical solutions that work for both the individual and their employer,” explained Dr. Pattani.
She illustrates with an example of a secretary experiencing knee pain, preventing her from commuting during rush hour. By understanding the specific challenges, a tailored solution is developed, allowing the individual to work effectively once in the office.
The cornerstone of this initiative is the Fitness to Work assessment, which involves a thorough evaluation of an individual’s health and functionality, aligning it with the demands of their job. Dr. Pattani highlights that sometimes the solution involves adjusting the job to accommodate the individual’s needs, ensuring a win-win scenario for both the employee and the employer.
“We have an A&E nurse who went from being able-bodied to being in a wheelchair after a road traffic accident. We explored what she could and couldn’t do and found a workaround which means she is now back in work,” said Dr. Pattani.
The pilot program is gaining traction in primary care and musculoskeletal hubs in secondary care. Driven by its early success, there are hopes of securing government support to expand and enhance the program further.
As these Occupational Health experts keep leading the charge in transforming how we think about returning to work, their initiative shines as a ray of hope for those facing health challenges.