London, 13 March 2013. Much of the current approach to the treatment of people of working age reflects an assumption that illness is incompatible with being in work, according to Dame Carol Black, chair of the Department of Health’s Public Health Responsibility Deal, Health at Work Network. However, as she will discuss at breast cancer charity Cancerkin’s1 annual lecture on the 19th March, work is beneficial for the health of most people of working age.
Statistics show that around 7% of the working age population are workless and receiving incapacity benefits because of long-term health conditions or disabilities2. And, for most people, their work is a key determinant of self-worth, family esteem, identity and standing within the community, as well as means of social participation and fulfilment. It is also often crucial, of course, for people to regain their income, especially if they have been on unpaid leave or reduced pay.
Research has also shown that remaining in, or returning to work can promote recovery and lead to better health outcomes. Much sickness absence and inactivity follow common health conditions and chronic diseases which, given the right support, are compatible with work, although sometimes it means a different kind of work. Finally, it must also be recognised that some people are too unwell or disabled to work at all and their needs too should be answered promptly and adequately.
Cancerkin CEO Victoria Todd said: “We see the importance our patients place on employment – particularly the younger women. Returning to work can provide a sense of self-worth, which breast cancer often takes away, and restores normality. However, we also often deal with problems from returning to work too fast, or because specific issues have not been addressed.”
As Tim Davidson, Consultant breast surgeon at the Royal Free and Cancerkin’s Medical Director adds: “Modern treatment of breast cancer, including chemotherapy and radiotherapy, can enable patients to return to work, or can be carried out alongside employment. Cancerkin’s Lymphoedema Clinic, for example, treats women who have developed chronic lymphoedema to manage their disease, often allowing them to remain to in employment.”
Dame Carol Black’s lecture ‘Wellbeing and work – are they compatible with chronic diseases?’ will explore chronic diseases and their relationship to work. The lecture is in the Atrium at the Royal Free Hospital at 5.45pm for a 6.30pm start. For reservations, contact Holly on firstname.lastname@example.org. Admission is free.
Notes to editors
1 Set up in 1987 as the first hospital-based, dedicated breast cancer charity in the UK, Cancerkin offers supportive care services to those living with the disease. The charity helps hundreds of women each year deal with the trauma of breast cancer diagnosis and treatment. Please see www.cancerkin.org.uk for more information
2 Black, Carol (2008). Working for a healthier tomorrow – a comprehensive review of work and health;p21. http://www.dwp.gov.uk/docs/hwwb-working-for-a-healthier-tomorrow.pdf