857 Time from onset of sickness absence to management referral for occupational health assessment in a healthcare setting

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Abstract

Introduction

In 12016, workers in the healthcare sector were among the groups of workers in the UK labour force who experienced the highest rates of sickness absence. Occupational health (OH) 2management is advisable to facilitate workers remaining at work or returning to work (RTW) as rapidly as possible, addressing any occupational issues that may prevent RTW.

Methods

An audit of all new referrals to the OH Physician in relation to sickness absence was undertaken during December 2016. The length of time from the onset of sickness absence to the date of management referral was noted.

Result

Thirty-two cases referred by management/HR to the OH Physician were available for audit during the first two weeks of December 2016 in an NHS Trust (n=9000 employees). The referral time period from ‘date of absence – date of management referral’ ranged from 5 days to 3 years.

Discussion

This study identifies a key factor which is important in preventing RTW for employees whose chief health conditions reflect contemporaneous ONS information, with resultant impact on the (in)direct costs of sickness absence in the healthcare sector. This audit identifies that managers vary in their referral practice and information provided. For the employer, this provides a source of feedback for managers to support 3quality improvement initiatives. Previously 4,5studies, have identified factors affecting RTW may be wide-ranging. This may have implications in relation to appropriate vocational rehabilitation or further health-related support. However further research is required to describe the factors which delay RTW in this sector, including training for management (and HR), sharing best practice when it is apparent.

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