Neal Stone: tackling chronic conditions amongst the workforce

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The government, at the launch of the Public Health Responsibility Deal in March this year, made clear the importance of the contribution that business in the UK can make in helping us achieve our public health goals. In the foreword to the report the Secretary of State for Health spelt out the impact on the NHS’s annual direct costs of physical inactivity, alcohol misuse and obesity – some £8.7 billion – with additional significant costs too for workers, employers and wider society.
Key to the success of this initiative will be organisations from all sectors and of all sizes signing up to the Public Health Responsibility Deal and their work in support of the five core commitments in relation to their customers and staff:

1. We recognise that we have a vital role to play in improving people’s health.
2. We will encourage and enable people to adopt a healthier diet.
3. We will foster a culture of responsible drinking, which will help people to drink within guidelines.
4. We will encourage and assist people to become more physically
5. We will actively support our workforce to lead healthier lives.

‘Workforce health’ signatories have been asked to sign up to a number of pledges aimed at encouraging workers to lead healthier lives including reporting annually, and publicly, on their employee’s health and wellbeing and detailing employee sickness absence rates. Signatories have also been asked to commit to basic measures for encouraging healthier staff restaurants and vending outlets.

For the last eleven years the spotlight on health and safety performance in Great Britain has, from time to time, shone more brightly on the causes and consequences of work-related ill health than anytime previously. But that momentum has been hard to maintain despite us better understanding the debilitating and costly consequence of failing to tackle work-related ill health and chronic conditions affecting workers in their workplaces.

Almost one–in-fifty workers reported a work-related illness in 2009/10. Some of these illnesses will be attributable to chronic conditions.

As part of the pledge employers are being asked to embed the principles of the chronic conditions guides within their HR procedures to ensure that those with chronic conditions at work are managed in the best way possible with the necessary flexibilities and workplace adjustments.

Chronic conditions as asthma, arthritis, cancer, diabetes do not necessarily have to mean employees stopping work. Guidance recently published on the NHS choices website is aimed at line managers and contains helpful advice on supporting employees with long term medical conditions. Guidance has also been published aimed at employees with advice on coping at work when you have a chronic medical condition. Both guides contain useful sources of advice and information on particular chronic conditions. The advice is practical and common sense and designed to help employees and their managers make informed choices about their health. The British Safety Council is pleased to be supporting this important initiative.

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About Neal Stone

Neal Stone, Head of Policy & Public Affairs, British Safety Council

Neal Stone joined the British Safety Council in May 2008 as Head of Policy and Public Affairs with responsibility for developing BSC’s policies and leading its research on major health and safety issues, representing BSC in its dealing with Government, HSE, other health and safety bodies, employer organisations, trade unions and other key stakeholders. Neal has spoken on behalf of BSC on major issues as the HSE Strategy, director leadership, worker involvement, GB’s health and safety performance and represented BSC at external conferences on issues as safety culture, director leadership, economic incentives, worker involvement and on the accreditation of health and safety practitioners at stakeholder meetings.

Neal chaired the Olympic Delivery Authority's 2009 Health, Safety & Environment Awards judging panel and will be doing so again in 2010.

Prior to joining BSC Neal worked for HSE from 1992-2008. From 2005-2007 he was the policy adviser to the Chair of the HSC, Sir Bill Callaghan, and Commission Members. From 2001-2005 Neal led HSE’s worker involvement and business involvement programmes including HSE’s policy lead on director responsibility for and the management of health and safety, employer liability insurance, worker involvement including the worker safety adviser initiative. Neal led HSE's feasibility and implementation projects on COMAH, Offshore and Railway regulatory charging.

Neal represented HSE on the RoSPA National Health and Safety Committee from 2001/05 and is presently a member of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers Customer Advisory Group.

Neal has a law degree from the London School of Economics & Political Science (1975), and MSc in Politics & Public Administration from Birkbeck College (1992) and an MPhil research degree in Politics and Public Administration - on the Labour Party and the Civil Service - from the University of Kent (1996).

Neal Stone
Head of Policy and Public Affairs
British Safety Council

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