Welsh workers on long-term sick offered Fit for Work service
A return-to-work service to help workers facing long-term sickness absence has gone live in Wales.
The free Fit for Work service will provide occupational health professionals to employed people if they have been, or are likely to be, off work for four weeks or more.
According to government statistics, about 48,000 Welsh workers a year are off sick for that length of time.
Fit for Work is being gradually rolled-out across Wales and England.
The service is being run by Health Management Limited on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions.
It is seen as particularly important in Wales where a higher-than-average proportion of the workforce is employed in smaller companies, which do not have occupational health services to support absent staff.
Welsh Secretary Stephen Crabb said: "The Fit for Work initiative will give tens of thousands of people across Wales the support they need to return to their jobs more quickly. This is clearly good for the Welsh economy."
GPs in Wales can now offer patients a referral to the service, which includes an in-depth assessment, followed by a personalised Return to Work Plan and managed support to get back to their jobs.
Dr Lucy Goundry, clinical lead for the programme at Health Management Limited, said: "GPs are under more pressure than ever to deliver complex services.
"In such an environment, being able to support patients with high quality occupational health assessment advice that takes a holistic approach will help patients."