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Health Works: A Review of the Scottish Government's Healthy Working Lives Strategy



Health Works - Conclusions of the Review of the Healthy Working Lives Strategy and Updated Actions

"We strongly believe that workers should not only be protected from harm in the workplace, but should benefit from practices that proactively promote health and wellbeing."
- Dave Moxham, Deputy General Secretary, Scottish Trades Union Congress

Ill-health in the working-age population has been estimated to cost the British economy £100 billion a year in lost productivity, lost tax and increased health and welfare costs. There is a clear, growing body of evidence to show that improving the health and wellbeing of the working-age population of Scotland will increase sustainable economic growth, particularly through improved business productivity.

Equally, we want as many people as possible to share in the rewards of work, because satisfying work is the best route for most people to a healthy and fulfilling life, defined as "one that continuously provides working-age people with the opportunity, ability, support and encouragement to work in ways and in an environment which allows them to sustain and improve their health and wellbeing".

The approach of the Health Works actions is to ensure that health is not a barrier to work for as many people as possible, so that they can contribute to, and share in, the economic prosperity of Scotland.

Our review has been carried out in the context of Dame Carol Black's review of the health of Britain's working-age population. Amongst the recommendations in Dame Carol's report is the replacement of the current medical certificate, or 'sicknote', with a 'fitnote' that will aim to keep people in work where it will help their recovery. The introduction of the new medical certificate will necessitate a major change in attitudes to health and work amongst employers, employees and the healthcare professions.

It is essential that employers understand that investing in the wellbeing of their workforces is of fundamental importance to securing and improving productivity and profitability. The Scottish Centre for Healthy Working Lives will work with its partners to develop a clear marketing and communications strategy to ensure that it maximises the number of employers it reaches with its services, in particular small and medium sized enterprises.

Individuals with a health barrier to entering, or fulfilling their potential in, work will have access to healthcare services that will support them back towards work. For many common health conditions, early intervention provides the best opportunity for a speedy and full return to work. We will establish minimum standards for access and support, defined in a 'Scottish Offer', learning from the pilot vocational rehabilitation projects and the pilot Fit for Work Services.

Healthcare staff need to be suitably empowered to include work-related outcomes as part of patient care plans. We will work with NHS Boards and healthcare professionals to develop programmes of training to provide healthcare staff with the tools to support patients towards work.

However, training and empowerment of healthcare staff needs to be in the context of strategic leadership on health and work. We will work with NHS Boards to establish leadership at senior level and make the links with community planning partners, especially those engaged in employability activities, to provide effective and efficient routes towards the workplace for individuals.

The public sector accounts for about 25% of the workforce in Scotland. It therefore has a major role in improving the health and wellbeing of the working-age population both through their role as employers and as service deliverers. The Scottish Government, COSLA and NHSScotland will develop a public sector mandate for public bodies to become exemplars and champions for Health Works.

This will require public bodies to adopt the highest levels of policy and practice in promoting the health and wellbeing of their staff, as well as ensuring that delivery of services and purchasing of goods and services promote the workplace health and wellbeing of others.

We recognise that future generations of workers will need to be equipped to remain safe and healthy in the workplace and we will work with partners such as the STUC to develop and deliver relevant messages through schools and colleges.

As well as requiring local leadership to deliver the actions in Health Works, we recognise the need for national leadership. We will work with existing Scotland-wide bodies such as the Healthy Working Lives National Advisory and Advocacy Group and the Scottish Employability Forum to ensure that there is a clear, national, strategic lead for Health Works.

We are already working on the means to measure our performance in delivering Health Works. Work will continue to develop a set of realistic and measureable outcomes and performance measures that will be used to demonstrate success.