Musculoskeletal (MSK) health issues contribute to the £100 billion that sickness and absence cost the UK every year, a Public Health England report suggests. 1 in 8 of us experience an MSK issue, and in 2013 alone 30.6 million days of absence - 23% of all recorded absences - were attributed to an MSK related illness.
"With such an impact on people’s lives, and in turn on the economy, the NHS is striving to do all it can to improve understanding and treatment of MSK health. This is resulting in ground-breaking research that is changing the way we respond to, and accommodate for, MSK issues in and out of work.
When Neil (now aged 48) went to see his Consultant in 2001, nothing could have prepared him for the news that he had a compressed vertebra and “would never work again.” Not only did this affect his earnings but it left a void in his life. It’s not surprising that after all this time he was sceptical about ever finding a job that could meet his needs and support a healthy lifestyle.
“I’ll be honest with you, after 18 years out of work I really thought I was unemployable. I thought that I would walk in there with my crutch and they would take one look at me and write me off.
“When my condition was first diagnosed the specialists told me that I would never work again. It really hit me hard. I’ve always worked, you see. I was never late for school and the only day that I was late for work was when I got pulled over by the police on a routine roadside check. I like to be busy. Every day that I wasn’t working I still got up at 6:30am. to tinker in my workshop or go out and clean up the streets around where I live.
“Not working really affected me. I stopped going to social events, meeting friends. I was embarrassed. Embarrassed when people ask that question “So, what do you do?” and I’d have to tell them I was out of work and on benefits. People would talk about going to work and what they did, and I would have nothing to share.
“One day I was speaking to my Physio, Jerome, and he recommended that I sign up for this new trial called Working Win. I looked on the website and didn’t really think it was for me, or that it would work. But I referred myself anyway. On my way home from that physio appointment I got a call from Darren - one of the Working Win team. He asked if I wanted to meet up and have a chat. No pressure. So, I did. I was still sceptical. I thought “There’s no way that I’m going to get a job - I wouldn’t hire me if I came in for an interview!”
“But I started working on my CV. Sent in a few applications. I went for an interview pretty soon after, but it was the wrong position, too ambitious. I knew that and so did they.
"There was too much physical activity for my condition. Then out of the blue I get a call from Lorna “Would you like to come in for an interview?” So, I did. Put on my shirt and tie, walked in on time and ready to go. We were chatting for over an hour and a half. She said I had already won the position after a couple of minutes. It was great.
“Starting work again took a little getting used to. There were some things that really helped though. After speaking to Lorna, we looked at how to make some adjustments to better suit my condition; as I had been given a job as a merchandiser, we moved some of the displays so that they weren’t on the floor and I didn’t have to bend down so low to reach them. This was a huge help.
“Being back at work has really changed my life. I’m so happy that I’m busy, that I have things to fill my day. I like that I’m part of a team and I’m valued by the people I work with. It has really helped to get my social life back. My wife and I go out for meals together again, it’s lovely.
Neil signed up to Working Win earlier this year. Supported by NHS England, the Department of Health and Social Care, and the Department for Work and Pensions; Working Win is a free trial testing a new type of support for people with mental or physical health conditions that are affecting their work or their ability to find a job. If you live in South Yorkshire or Bassetlaw, you can learn more and refer yourself to the trial here.