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Health: Working-age Population

Volume 705: debated on Tuesday 25 November 2008

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Rt. Hon. James Purnell) has made the following Statement.

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Health (Alan Johnson) and I have today published the Government’s response to Dame Carol Black’s review of the health of Britain’s working-age population, Working for a Healthier Tomorrow.

Dame Carol’s review, published on 17 March 2008, built upon the growing evidence that work is generally good for health and that the mounting costs of ill health are unacceptable, whether for individuals and families, for businesses, or for society as a whole.

Her analysis brought into focus, as never before, the scale of the economic cost of ill health and its impact not just on work but on human life. She laid the foundation for a consensus around a new vision for health and work, setting out radical and far- reaching proposals to prevent illness; make early access to work-related health support available to all; and improve the health of the workless so that everyone with the potential to work has the support they need to do so.

Today we are responding in full to Dame Carol’s recommendations. Our response Improving Health and Work: Changing Lives sets out our proposals. It includes a series of pilots and programmes with the potential to redefine the ambition of health and employment support in Britain, shifting the focus of welfare beyond helping people into work to helping them stay there, and further widening the focus of national healthcare from treatment to prevention and early intervention.

Our proposals include:

changing the paper-based “sick note” to an electronic “fit note”;

piloting a “Fit for Work” service;

creating a National Centre for Working-Age Health and Well-being;

establishing a network of Health, Work and Well-being Co-ordinators;

introducing an occupational health helpline;

extending NHS Plus; and

a review of the health and well-being of the NHS.

Dame Carol set out a challenging vision for improving the health of the working-age population. Ultimately, responsibility rests with a range of people: government; employers; trade unions; healthcare professionals; and individuals themselves. Today, with the publication of our response, we are setting out the Government’s real commitment to this agenda and how we will play our part.

Copies of Improving Health and Work: Changing Lives will be placed in the Library of the House.