Helping the nation to work

Speaking  in April 2012, Legal & General director John Pollock said that the Government could save £billions if they adopted a coherent long term sickness absence policy.  Mr Pollock believes that the current sick pay system “doesn’t deliver the right mixture of support for employer or employee and is not delivering value for the taxpayer in the long term.”

In part the comments reflect the conclusion of an earlier report from November 2011 which stated that early health intervention helped to reduce sickness absence with specialist expertise playing an important role in promoting a swift return to work.  This in turn helps both the country’s budget and the individual’s wellbeing.

Of course, any report about sickness absence is likely to be the catalyst for some debate.  On the one hand the Government is actively seeking to move claimants from long term sickness benefits and back in to work.  On the other comes a report from Opinium which said that 12% of those taking sick leave in the first two months of 2012 were not ill enough to justify taking the time off.   In the middle we have the health and safety debate centring on whether those with illnesses such as colds and mild flu should go into work and risk passing their illness on or stay at home to protect their workmates.

Key to the debate is the degree to which early intervention is possible.  Certainly when it comes to muscle and skeletal problems, in general the earlier the intervention the swifter the cure.  OK there is the prevention is better than cure argument and that has led in general in recent years to workplaces adopting more stringent health and safety procedures. But no matter how careful someone is, there are going to be times when our muscles or ligaments give up on us.  And when that happens, it’s can never be too soon to start on an appropriate course of treatment. Those visiting  physiotherapists, chiropractors and osteopaths  may well be unable to work in the short term and the longer the injury goes untreated the more likely secondary problems may develop.

This requirement for speedy treatment places a logistical challenge on health professionals.  On the one hand they need to maintain a regular treatment schedule for existing patients whilst on the other hand time needs to be made available in order to start new treatments on those whose injuries have just occurred. The challenge for health professionals is therefore to maximise treatment times whilst making it easy for patients to contact and make appointments.

This is where a virtual receptionist service comes into its own.  Professionally trained receptionists can take calls, book appointments and answer simple patient queries leaving the health professional free to provide treatment. With appointment reminders sent to reduce “no shows” the use of a virtual receptionist service can help to ensure that the maximum number of patients are treated in the time available.  This helps to ensure early intervention and therefore speeds up the return to work.  Whilst we can’t do much about those taking a “sickie”, a virtual receptionist service can make the difference both for those who need to see a healthcare professional quickly and for the professionals themselves who wish to maximise their working time.

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