Identifying work-related training and resources for workplace professionals

20 September 2023

Arthritis and other musculoskeletal (MSK) conditions affect over 20 million people in the UK and are a leading cause of disability and sick leave in the working population.

Providing employability guidance and support to people living with long term conditions, such as arthritis/MSK, is key to achieving a more equal and prosperous society. Employability support, and the role it can play in addressing and removing barriers to participating in the labour market, is central to workplace inclusion.

To understand what is needed to improve work outcomes and support for people with arthritis/MSK, Versus Arthritis worked in partnership with the Society of Occupational Medicine (SOM). We created a survey to establish gaps in work-related training, resources, and support. Respondents were also given the opportunity to share their experience and opinions. Following this survey, SOM hosted a webinar with Versus Arthritis to share some of the findings and explore solutions.

The survey and webinar revealed a clear and overwhelming need for specific work-related information, better understanding of the impact of arthritis/MSK conditions and access to self-management support. Better support within the workplace was seen as key: ‘Getting the employer to understand the importance of the right fit between the person, their job tasks/demands and the work environment.’

Clarity is needed with regards to the resources that are already available, with a clear pathway for workplace professionals, employers, and people with arthritis to help them access the information and support needed to improve work outcomes.

Healthcare professionals are currently facing unprecedented levels of demand, and the emphasis on self-management is more important than ever. For self-management to be effective in helping people live with their condition, it cannot overlook work issues. As one respondent put it:

‘Often individuals have a diagnosis and that’s it, no specialist nurse/physio follow up to managing and living with such conditions, basically keep taking pain relief and that's it. Oh, and it will get so bad you cannot work. Very little focus from treating clinicians on learning to live with such conditions.’

This survey will inform our work going forward. The final report will be available soon along with a similar report on a survey carried out with people with arthritis.