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March 3, 2010

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New charter sets out action on MSDs

Employers are being urged to sign up to a new ‘charter for work’ that

sets out positive action to help people with musculoskeletal disorders

(MSDs) stay in their jobs.

The charter was launched yesterday (2 March) by the Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Alliance (ARMA), an umbrella body of 34 organisations working in the field of musculoskeletal conditions. The group is hoping to capitalise on Dame Carol Black’s Review ‘Working for a Healthier Tomorrow’ and influence a change in attitude and behaviour on health issues in workplaces, NHS bodies, and wider communities.

Developed in partnership with NHS Employers, The Royal College of Nursing and The Work Foundation, the charter calls for:

  • better flexible working arrangements and training of line managers;
  • the delivery of integrated services at a local level to ensure early diagnosis and treatment; and
  • ensuring an open dialogue between employers and employees to manage a person’s condition effectively.

Nearly 11 million working days were lost in 2008/09 as a result of MSDs, which are estimated to cost society more than £7 billion a year.

Explaining how it hopes to reduce these figures, ARMA director Ros Meek said: “We are urging all employers, both private and public-sector, to show their commitment to the health of their workforce and adopt the charter. By taking small steps, they can help transform the lives of people with MSDs and benefit their own bottom line by retaining valuable skills.”

Conservative shadow health minister, Anne Milton MP, said: “With MSDs affecting 6.5 million people and costing society more than £7 billion a year, it is important that policy-makers and employers take positive steps to ensure that those who can work are supported to do so. We need to rise to this challenge in order to help restore economic growth, and refocus on capacity rather than incapacity — which costs individuals and taxpayers dearly.”

Speaking in relation to health-care workers, Dr Peter Carter, chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said: “Nurses are often at a very high risk of developing musculoskeletal conditions, so it is vital that employers take preventative action and offer support where it is needed.

“This charter is useful for nurses in pushing for this commitment from employers, but it is also useful for those offering support to patients with such conditions, whose health and well-being can be improved by being able to stay in work.”

In December last year, the Government launched nine occupational-health advice-line pilots to support small businesses in keeping their staff in work when health issues arise. The advice line gives employers access to occupational-health professionals and directs employers to further services that can assist them.

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