More than 800,000 working people in England each year have sickness absence of four weeks or more. Without support, many of them will struggle to return to their jobs.
Now a new support service aims to help such people return to work more quickly.
Launched across England, the "Fit for Work" initiative will provide professional occupational health services to workers who have been, or are likely to be, off work for four or more weeks.
All GPs in England will be able to offer their working patients a referral to the new service. Those referred will receive an in-depth assessment, a personalised Return to Work Plan, and managed support to get back to their jobs.
From this autumn, employers will be able to refer their staff to the service which is expected to be of particular value in SMEs as they usually have little or no occupational health support available.
The Fit for Work programme will be delivered by Health Management Limited.
Speaking on behalf of the company, Dr Lucy Goundry said that GPs have long called for such a facility and that Health Management Limited will be providing an independent referral service to make occupational health support accessible to the wider working population as well as providing a vital line of support for GPs in England.
For the business community, Neil Carberry, Director for Employment and Skills at the CBI, welcomed the Fit for Work service and said that, in the longer term, his organisation would like to see GPs using the service as a default option for employees who are absent for four weeks or more.
Further information about Fit for Work is available at http://bit.ly/1IkwrjK.