Fit for Work not only helped this North Tyneside practice as a referring GP practice, but also as an employer.
Philip Horsfield is the Practice Manager and Partner at Village Green Surgery in North Tyneside, which serves a population of around 10,000 patients. The surgery employs 13 full and part time GPs, and is based in an area with a fairly high employment rate. The local area is home to several large businesses including call centres for EE and Tesco.
Philip found out about Fit for Work when he received a mailout explaining the service and how it could benefit GPs, as part of the country-wide Fit for Work GP engagement programme.
“I thought the service sounded really interesting and tapped into the needs of the population the Village Green Surgery serves,” he explains. “I asked our local Fit for Work representative to speak to the GPs at our practice and give them more in-depth information about the service. I’m also the chair of the North Tyneside Practice Manager Forum, where all the local practice managers can get together and share ideas, so I asked our representative to give a talk there too.”
Mental health issues
Many GPs at Village Green Surgery are now referring their patients to Fit for Work, many of whom are suffering from low level mental health issues. “Because of the call centres in our vicinity, we see a lot of patients with work-related anxiety because the work is very target-driven,” adds Philip. “The working environment of a call centre can be quite psychologically demanding – the staff there are often quite low paid; they’re on commission and they have to meet targets, which understandably can take its toll, particularly when people have mental health problems, or long term health problems.”
“Fit for Work has proved invaluable in cases like this because these people just need a little bit of extra help to get back to work and communicate with their employers,” Philip explains. “It’s obviously dependent on the patient – they have to actually want to get back to work – but when they do, the service works extremely well because it offers them the support they need.”
Fit for Work can often prove helpful in work-related stress cases, because it is a neutral and impartial service which takes both the employee and employer concerns into consideration. A Fit for Work telephone assessment focuses on everything preventing the employee returning to work, including relationships at work or financial issues, and Fit for Work can often act as a bridge between employees and employer who may be finding it difficult to communicate.
The Village Green Surgery has also used Fit for Work as an employer, when they had a member of staff on long term sickness absence. “She had been given a three week sick note by her GP initially, but she was suffering a crisis of confidence in terms of how returning to work would go,” Philip explains. “She thought she could cope physically but she was worried about how going back to work would affect her mentally, as her job is very demanding and requires quite a high level of skill and concentration. We suggested a referral to Fit for Work once she reached the four week absence point.”
The staff member was happy to be referred by the Village Green Surgery, and was given an initial 45-minute telephone assessment by a Fit for Work case manager to discuss her concerns about returning to work. “I know that she felt very comfortable talking to the case manager,” Philip adds. “She just needed to build up her confidence again so that she could ease back into work.”
After speaking to Fit for Work and drawing up a Return to Work Plan, the surgery agreed to let her make a phased return to work. “She returned on exactly the date agreed in her Return to Work Plan – the process was very quick and efficient. The experiences we’ve had with Fit for Work – both as a referring practice and an employer – were great and I couldn’t be happier with how the service works.”
GPs can refer their patients to Fit for Work by visiting the GP page of the Fit for Work website and clicking on ‘refer a patient’.
Practice managers can download items from the GP toolkit (e.g. guides, posters and leaflets to share with their staff members and local practice managers).
If you are interested in speaking to a Fit for Work representative, you can call 0203 425 5000 to book an appointment.