UK’s health and social systems failing to improve workforce wellbeing 0

workforce wellbeingA new report published this week by The Work Foundation, Healthy, Working Economies sets out the challenges facing the next UK government to improve the health and wellbeing of the country’s workforce. The report calls on the government to review how it is using local organisations, such as Health and Wellbeing Boards and Local Enterprise Partnerships to encourage improvements in workforce wellbeing and health. The Work Foundation recommends that a standardised set of measures be included in the Joint Strategic Needs Assessments performed by Health and Wellbeing Boards, including measures of employment outcomes for individuals with health issues. The report also suggests that employer leadership is needed to drive the step-change needed to improve the health of the workforce.

The three main criticisms made in the report about the current approach are:

  • New local bodies created under localism agenda are systematically failing to make the differences possible to workforce wellbeing and health
  • Current guidance for health and wellbeing boards and local enterprise partnerships does not go far enough in encouraging local action on workforce health
  • A review of the remit of, and the outcomes which these bodies report on, is needed in relation to the health and wellbeing of the working age population

The Health at Work Policy Unit’s third policy paper argues that despite pockets of good practice where areas are prioritising the health and wellbeing of the working age population, central government is failing to give local organisations clear roles and responsibilities around improving workforce health and wellbeing, in order to drive joined-up local action.

The paper highlights good practice examples where policy has been used at a local level to achieve improved workforce wellbeing. It makes a number of recommendations to both national and local policymakers as to how policy could more effectively encourage joined-up action on workforce health locally.

Health and Wellbeing Boards bring key leaders from health and social care together to assess joint needs and agree joint priorities. For example, Manchester City Council has had success by setting employment as a strategic priority of the Health and Wellbeing board – council and clinical leadership at a senior level has driven action on workforce health. The paper argues therefore that the Government should review current guidance so that employment outcomes become a routine aspect of Joint Strategic Needs Assessments.

Other key recommendations include:

  • The DWP should devolve greater responsibility to local areas for the re-commissioning of the Work Programme
  • Employment data should be collected through the health system and be used to more accurately benchmark local authorities progress around the health and wellbeing of the working age population
  • National outcomes frameworks should be better aligned around health and employment
  • Central government should pool existing funds into a budget for local areas to access, to tackle the wider social determinants of health (the Marmot principles)

Commenting on the paper, Professor Stephen Bevan, Director of the Centre for Workforce Effectiveness at The Work Foundation, said: “We’ve found there are examples of best practice where those with health conditions are being helped to stay in work and create healthier workplaces. However, government must now empower local actors to significantly improve workforce health and wellbeing at a local level.”  Commenting on the launch, Professor Dame Carol Black, Trustee of The Work Foundation, said: “I am delighted to be at the launch of this paper. The economic and social burden of chronic health conditions, such as mental illness, chronic pain and musculoskeletal disorders on local workforces is growing steadily; yet national policy responses and local practices are still not attaching the appropriate level of priority to interventions. There is significant potential for more work to be done at a local level in order to improve the health of the working age population and I hope this paper will be seen as an authoritative guide and to spur on discussion and action.”

An executive summary can be read here and the full report here.