None Of Our Business?

How Places of Work Can Help to Improve the Health of the Nation

February 28, 2024
Should places of work and study play a greater role in supporting the health of their employees?  This new report from Policy Exchange – backed by two former Work and Pensions Secretaries – sets out fifteen measures to boost the role of workplaces in supporting the nation’s health to reduce the record number of people on long-term sick leave, save the NHS money and to limit the growing benefits bill. 
It argues that improved access to occupational health and vocational rehabilitation via employers would enable more people with long-term conditions to remain in work and would improve ‘return to work’ rates for those recovering from major conditions, such as cancer. It also argues that enabling more referrals by GPs to occupational health professionals will reduce the number of ‘fit notes’ being signed-off as ‘not fit for work’. (94% of the 11m ‘fit notes’ issued last year were marked ‘not fit for work’.) 

It recommends:

  • An extension of tax relief and employee benefit for a wider range of effective medical assessments and treatments, through the creation of an ‘Annual Allowance’, set at £2,500 for every employee. (Thereby raising the current £500 cap and increasing the range of treatments eligible)
  • For a reduction in Business Rates for groups of businesses who create ‘group services’ to improve access to occupational health for SMEs, or local business groups who use empty high street premises to deliver physio sessions or vaccination clinics.
  • For further reform of the ‘Fit Note’ so GPs can refer individuals for ‘Additional Assessment’ by an occupational health professional.
  • For the ‘NHS Health Check’ (currently offered via GPs to screen over 40s for a number of conditions, such as stroke or heart disease) to be made routinely available via workplaces and for eligibility to be extended to those over 25 with a focus on areas of the country where economic inactivity rates are highest;
  • For more doctors and nurses to be trained in occupational health, making the most of the Government’s first-of-its-kind NHS Long Term Workforce Plan.
  • Boosting the role of the leisure sector in offering pain management and physiotherapy sessions to support people with musculoskeletal (MSK) problems, such as back or neck pain.

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Dr Sean Phillips

Head of Health and Social Care

Stuart Carroll

Senior Fellow, Health and Social Care

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