DoH releases mental health at work agenda

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The department of Health has laid out long-term ambitions for a broad change in the way people with mental health problems are supported in society, including at work.

A document, Closing the Gap: Priorities for essential change in mental health, aims to bridge the gap between long-term ambition and shorter-term action.

It seeks to show how changes in local service planning and delivery will make a difference, in the next two to three years.

It therefore sets out 25 areas where people can expect to see, and experience, the fastest changes.

The document says: "We will support employers to help more people with mental health problems to remain in or move into work."

It acknowledges the positive impact that work can have on health and wellbeing and outlines two related objectives: helping those out of work gain employment and helping employed people with mental health problems remain in work.

It adds: "Given the benefits for both the employer and the employee, promoting wellbeing at work is a vital element of our overall prevention strategy."

NHS England is working with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to identify best practice for employers - from recruitment and retention to reducing stigma, as well as in areas such as providing effective workplace support.

From late 2014, the Government is also bringing in a new Health and Work service to provide employers with the advice they need to help more people stay in work when health problems arise.

The service will provide advice to employers, employees and GPs and offer return to work assessment and support for employees who have been on sickness absence for four weeks back into work.

AXA PPP Healthcare said it was particularly glad to hear of the support being offered to employers to promote workplace wellbeing of which mental health is a significant part.

Chris Jessop, managing director of Health Services Division, AXA PPP healthcare, said: "It can be difficult to identify stressors for individuals, and more often than not, the biggest stress in a person's life is not work related.

"A recent audit we've done across multiple sector organisations shows that money worries, organisational change and change in working hours are the top three factors in people's stress levels.

"This really highlights that in order to support their employees, managers should be trained in identifying and understanding the symptoms of unmanageable stress and mental ill-health.

"The introduction of best practice for employers for reducing stigma, providing effective support, increasing recruitment and retention is an excellent idea and one we would welcome sooner rather than later."

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