August 15, 2017

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‘Wasted investment’ of Fit for Work scheme

The Fit for Work scheme that aimed to revolutionise occupational health in the UK has been slammed as a ‘wasted investment’, reports the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, after two sets of figures suggested it was being woefully underused by both companies and doctors.

A new survey run on behalf of CIPD’s People Management found around two-thirds (65%) of more than 400 GPs questioned had not referred a single person under the Fit for Work scheme in the last year.

And of those who had used the scheme at some point, 40% said no one they had referred had successfully returned to work.

Meanwhile, three out of five (61%) of those questioned said they were not sure how effective the programme was at reducing long-term sickness absence and 15% described it as very ineffective.


Fit for Work was initially established as a GP-led service but was extended to allow businesses to refer employees in September 2015. It aims to provide free, impartial advice to employers along with an occupational health assessment for staff off sick for four or more weeks, in a bid to reduce the NHS bill for long-term sickness by getting individuals back to work earlier.

However, there have been concerns from an early stage about how well publicised and understood the scheme is, as well as the potential for overlap with employers’ existing occupational health programmes.

A survey carried out by Jelf Employee Benefits in December 2015 found that just 17% of 281 employers questioned had received any sort of formal notification about the extension of the scheme.

Charlotte Cross, director of the Better Health at Work Alliance, told People Management the latest findings suggested that the Fit for Work service had been a “wasted investment”.

She said the “united focus from all stakeholders should now be to ensure that employers are aware of the plethora of experts and other specialist resources already available to them and are financially able to use them, removing employer over-reliance upon the NHS and improving work and health outcomes across the board.”

Meanwhile, Dr Nigel Watson, a GP and chief executive of Wessex Local Medical Committees – a representative body for GPs – said the numbers reflected the lack of publicity the scheme had enjoyed. “If you see there’s a benefit to you and your patient, you’re more likely to use it,” he said.

A separate survey, published today by manufacturers’ organisation EEF, revealed that, although three-quarters (77%) of the 264 companies it surveyed had heard of the Fit for Work scheme, just a quarter of those that were aware of it would use it.

Of the 14 respondents that had used the scheme, only three agreed it had helped their staff return to work earlier.

“While the Fit for Work service has a key role to play, companies are clearly not persuaded of the benefits of using it, either because they already have some form of occupational health provision or they are content to rely on the NHS,” said Terry Woolmer, head of health and safety policy at EEF.

“As such, the government needs to review its work and health priorities as part of the development of the wider industrial strategy. This would help improve the productive potential of the economy and reduce the burden on an overstretched NHS.”


What makes us susceptible to burnout?

In this episode  of the Safety & Health Podcast, ‘Burnout, stress and being human’, Heather Beach is joined by Stacy Thomson to discuss burnout, perfectionism and how to deal with burnout as an individual, as management and as an organisation.

We provide an insight on how to tackle burnout and why mental health is such a taboo subject, particularly in the workplace.


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Nigel Dupree
Nigel Dupree
6 years ago

Mmm, pretty insulting to suggest GP’s and their patients are not capable of developing a treatment and/or post treatment rehabilitation plan with or without collaboration, funding and/or support from an employer. Unless I am very mistaken ‘Fit For Work’, sort of, like, you know, looks like a derivative of the a another dot gov sub-contracted service Fit for Work service “ETOS” ? If so, probably explains why a. no one wants to subscribe and b. why it has spectacularly failed what what ? Then again makes you wonder what happens to people abandoned post emergency treatment for their workplace injuries… Read more »