Axa questions NICE approach to long term sickness

Axa is questioning whether the NHS currently has the capability to implement the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence’s guidance for primary care and employers on the management of long term sickness and incapacity.

The provider says whilst NICE’s proposed absence management pathway is likely to succeed if conscientiously applied, it questions whether the NHS currently has the capability to deliver the services employers need to restore many ill or injured employees back to health in a sufficiently timely fashion. Axa points out that the report gives little consideration to availability of appropriate treatment in the NHS, which is important as the principal causes of long term sickness absence are musculoskeletalconditions and psychological problems, typically stress, anxiety and depression, where the NHS has historically struggled to offer timely care. It has also questioned whether the two to six week waiting period suggested by NICE before initially assessing employees’ fitness for work is too long.

Axa is calling for an initial assessment to be undertaken after one week to determine whether employees should be left to recover on their own or referred for more detailed assessment and intervention.

Dudley Lusted, head of corporate healthcare development at Axa says: ‘We are pleased that our own approach to managing long term sickness absence so closely mirrors the model endorsed by NICE. Independent sector providers are well placed to provide early access to investigations and treatment, and to the dedicated case management service necessary for success in more difficult cases. It’s astonishing that so many employers continue to pay people not to work whilst they wait for NHS treatment when the tools to treat them cost effectively are so readily available.