Mental health project helps York residents return to work after sickness

People who were part of the scheme said it made them feel less alone
People who were part of the scheme said it made them feel less alone
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People in York battling mental health issues have benefited from a new support scheme helping them stay in work.

The West Yorkshire Combined Authority, which covers the towns and cities sometimes known as the Leeds City Region, introduced the Work Wellness Project in response to an increasing trend of mental health conditions among workers over 50, and the risk they faced of falling out of employment permanently.

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The organisation’s report, which was published yesterday [ ! THURS 12 ! ], showed the scheme proved that providing specialist non-medical support alongside the work of GPs is needed and more can be done in helping those finding it difficult to return to work.

Work Wellness operated as a partnership between York Learning, City of York Council, York Medical Group and Priory Medical Group, providing support to over 60 people who were absent from work due to ill-health.

Coun Susan Hinchcliffe, chair of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority and Leader of Bradford Council, said: “Tackling mental health issues is a key part of getting people into work and helping them to stay in work.

“Work Wellness was developed as an innovative pilot which uses social prescribing to support people who were off work, or at risk of being off, due to stress, anxiety or depression. We wanted to test the effectiveness of referral to holistic, one-to-one advice, coaching and action planning as a means of tackling the full range of issues that prevented patients from returning to work.”

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She said “social prescribing” - referring a patient to a person who might be able to help, rather than treating a condition with medication only - was increasingly seen as an effective way of dealing with people off work for mental health reasons.

She added: “I urge the health sector to read this report and help the Combined Authority to roll this approach out across the city region.”

Participants said the service helped them rebuild their confidence and gave them the strength to deal with issues at work.

A York GP who worked on the project said: “Certainly the patients of mine had really good care and were followed up thoroughly for a number of months and [WW adviser] got some of them back to work or helped them to sort a lot of things out like their finances, I think that really helped them improve and get better because it’s not all medication, it’s time and talking to another person giving impartial advice.”

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Although not initially an intention of the project, Work Wellness also contributed to awareness raising within the workplace on how best to support employees with their mental health. Feedback from clients and GPs suggests that its absence will leave a gap in support.

To ensure conclusive testing of the pilot, the project is also being delivered in Calderdale, where so far equally good results are being achieved, the West Yorkshire Combined Authority said.