Mon, 17 May 2021

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Health and Social Care Integration failing to encourage and support local action to improve workforce health and wellbeing

The Work Foundation

3 min read Partner content

New local bodies created under localism agenda are systematically failing to make the differences possible to workforce health and wellbeing

A report released on Tuesday - Healthy, working economies - will call on the next government to review how it is using local organisations, such as Health and Wellbeing Boards and Local Enterprise Partnerships, to encourage improvements in workforce health and wellbeing. Lancaster University’s Work Foundation will recommend that a more 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 conditions. The report will also recommend that employer leadership is needed on Health and Wellbeing Boards in order to achieve the step-change needed in improving the health of the working age population and to drive economic growth and productivity locally.

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 health. 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:

Public Health England should make “good work” for all one of its big ambitions as set out in its business plan in order to send a clear message to regional and local public health teams
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.

“We recommend that government renewal of the statutory guidance for JSNAs and JHWS to include a more standardised guideline of employment measures, would have a huge impact. Public Health England must also make ‘good work for all’ a key priority in its business plan in order to send a clear message to regional and local public health teams.”

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