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Tagged In:  NHS

Musculoskeletal (MSK) injury is one of main causes of staff sickness in the NHS. Now NHS England is tackling the problem head-on by encouraging trusts to access a £450 million fund to offer employees better access to physiotherapy.




According to NHS England, 40% of long-term sickness absence is due to an MSK condition. The 2015 NHS Staff Survey showed that a staggering 25% of respondents reported suffering from MSK issues due to work-related activities in the last 12 months.

In March this year, NHS England Chief Executive Simon Stevens announced that efforts would be stepped up to improve the health and wellbeing of employees by offering financial incentives through a £450 million Commissioning for Quality and Innovation (CQUIN) fund.

The latest CQUIN guidance encourages trusts to apply for funding to tackle the problem of sickness caused by MSK problems by offering staff easier and faster access to physiotherapy. "Early and reliable access to a physiotherapist has been shown to be one of the most effective forms of intervention to deal with MSK conditions within the workplace, " says the guidance. "Enabling faster access to people suffering from MSK conditions could optimise the clinical outcomes, reduce preventable deterioration and enable them to stay in work or return to work quicker."

Offering frontline staff such as nurses, therapists, doctors and care assistants access to workplace physiotherapy is a key objective of the CQUIN initiative. The aim is to enable a fast-track physiotherapy service for staff suffering from MSK issues, ensuring those who are referred via GPs or occupational therapists can access it as quickly as possible. "As the largest employer in Europe, the NHS needs to practise what it preaches by offering better support for the health and wellbeing of our own 1.3 million staff, " explained Simon Stevens. "A good place to start is by tackling the sources of staff sickness absence, including mental health and musculoskeletal injuries..."

Public Health England estimates that staff absence for health reasons costs the NHS £2.4 billion per year, accounting for around £1 in every £40 of the total NHS operating budget. That's not taking into account those who 'soldier on' regardless of illness or injury. 

With NHS staff resources under increasing pressure, using the skills and expertise of physiotherapists to 'heal the healers' and reduce sickness absence makes a lot of sense.

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