Press release

HSE pilot programme supports people with chronic pain to stay in work

Published: 16 May 2024

A new HSE occupational therapy service is aiming to help hundreds of people every year who are currently unable to work due to chronic pain or musculoskeletal conditions to remain in, or return to, employment. 

Already in action across a number of regions including Waterford, Kildare, Wexford, Kilkenny, Dublin South/South East and Wicklow this pilot service of community-delivered occupational therapy is currently delivering support to people with musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) and arthritis. It is focused on people currently in paid employment or in receipt of illness benefit. This service has the potential to help over 450 people every year reach their goal of staying in work or returning to their job.

Previous research has shown 14 million days are lost each year due absence and ill health in the workforce, with half of those attributable to MSDs. This is coupled with an over €750 million cost to the economy.

Speaking about the Work-Able Solutions programme Professor David Kane, Clinical Lead for Rheumatology, HSE says:

“We know from research that many people who exit employment due to chronic pain never return and only 2% of those on long term disability leave that payment.”

Project Lead and Occupational Therapy Lead for Rheumatology, Dr Yvonne Codd, HSE continues:

“Our new programme aims to aid people living with chronic pain to maintain or return to employment again. In our short existence we have already seen the benefits of our approach.”

Jane Brownlee, Clinical Specialist Occupational Therapist, Rheumatology, HSE added:

“Managing chronic pain while trying to sustain employment can be very difficult. My role is to work with clients on a one-to-one basis to provide a flexible, solutions-based approach. Our service focuses on setting goals and identifying treatment plans which give people the confidence to continue, or return to the workforce.”

Aoife, a 41 year-old public sector worker who suffers with fibromyalgia, PoTS (postural tachycardia syndrome) and long-Covid was recently helped with a phased return to work through the Work-Able Solutions programme.

She says:

“I initially thought this programme would be helpful to supporting me with those first steps in returning to work, but in reality this programme has given me so much more. It has been a lifeline and has helped and supported me in navigating my way to get my life back, and also to accept and adapt to my new-normal. I feel hopeful again for the future and a successful, phased return to work.”

Referrals for the service are received from both primary care centres and hospitals. Once referrals are received an occupational therapist will provide one-to-one support to enable people to stay in, or get back to work.

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