Health professionals play a critical role in getting injured workers back on the job, according to research commissioned by WorkSafe Victoria.
It found that 93 per cent of people believe doctors and physiotherapists play an important role in getting injured workers back on the job while 71 per cent think that injured workers would benefit from returning to different work duties before they are fully recovered.
The research, conducted by Newspoll, also found that just over two-thirds of people said that returning to work but performing different duties would provide an increased feeling of self-worth.
Occupational physician, Kevin Sleigh, said getting back to work, even if it was before an injured person fully recovered, could greatly assist a patient’s rehabilitation and should be a primary aim of the treatment process.
“There is increasing evidence that the sooner an injured person returns to work, the better,” he said.
“We need more people to have a conversation about the potential for a return to work to get the best health outcome for the patient. It’s important the conversation focuses on what the injured person can do instead of what they can’t.
“There won’t be a return to work option in every case, but unless the conversation is had many people will languish unnecessarily at home.”
Sleigh said GPs can be the conduit between the injured worker and their employer to collaboratively put in place the best recovery process.
Around 28,000 Victorian workers suffer work-related injuries each year, with around 3000 workers out of the workforce for more than six months due to a workplace injury.
In the past five years, nearly 150,000 Victorians have lodged compensation claims with WorkSafe, totaling more than $2.7 billion in treatment and rehabilitation costs.
WorkSafe said practical ways of helping patients back to employment and optimum functioning include:
• Recommending a graduated increase in activity and setting a timeline for return to work;
• Talking to the employer (preferably with the patient), about work opportunities based on work capacity or how to modify the workplace and work duties to allow return to work;
• Collaboratively identifying obstacles – and solutions – in the workplace;
• Being clear about what healthcare can, and can’t, achieve, and
• Identifying possible sources of support, including family members, co-workers and relevant services.