HR managers are working in partnership to revolutionize the workplace in a move which could improve employees’ health, save money for the NHS and boost productivity, argues Health Innovation Network Senior Project Manager Linda Briant (pictured below) who is driving forward Think Diabetes.
Employees with a diagnosis of both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes (and carers of people with diabetes) will be supported and encouraged to take time off work to learn about their diabetes. The insight and knowledge gained at these Structured Education sessions will empower individuals to self-manage their condition and improve their long-term health outcomes.
How big a problem is diabetes?
Diabetes costs the NHS more than £10 billion per year and this constitutes roughly 10 per cent of the entire budget. We know that Structured Education is part of the solution. People with diabetes benefit from being able to self-manage their condition and make changes to diet and lifestyle. Structured Education helps them to do this and is clinically proven. It also provides much needed peer support after being diagnosed with a life changing condition. What’s more, it is recommended as a basic and crucial part of care for an individual with diabetes by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), the NHS’s guidance on clinical standards.
Despite this, uptake rates of diabetes education are low and one of the reasons commonly cited is that it is difficult to take time off work. Diabetes is covered by the Equality Act 2010 as a long term condition that has significant impact on individuals’ lives. Employers are therefore obliged to make reasonable adjustments, although these adjustments are not defined. The case for employers adjusting their policies and supporting individuals to attend structured education is overwhelming.
What must change?
The working population in Britain spends roughly a third of their life at work. Yet all too often, the role of employers in creating and maintaining healthy workplaces, or supporting their staff to be healthy, is overlooked.
The workplace is a great setting for reaching people with messages that promote and encourage healthy lifestyles and many businesses are already taking action by promoting healthy initiatives. The benefits to them are higher staff morale and lower rates of sickness absence.
Evidence shows that employers that invest in appropriate workplace health initiatives to support the health and wellbeing of their employees have the potential to see a significant return on investment (1) A review of academic studies shows that the return on investment for some workplace health initiatives can range from £2 for every £1 spent (1:2) to £34 for every £1 spent (1:34) (2).
How is the Health Innovation Network influencing change?
Human resource (HR) professionals, alongside people living with diabetes have worked with the Health Innovation Network to develop and test strategies that could easily be adopted by organisations to support people living with diabetes attend structured education. These include:
1. HR policy and strategy changes to facilitate taking leave to attend courses
2. Structured education delivered in the workplace
3. Healthy lifestyles awareness-raising sessions at work with a focus on diabetes prevention
The learning from this feasibility study is being incorporated into a ‘how to’ guide, which provides examples of good practice, along with recommendations for undertaking this initiative in your workplace.
This guide will be published and available in January 2019.
How can you make change happen for your workforce?
• Sign up to receive a free copy of the ‘how to guide’ for supporting people living with diabetes in the workplace
• Implement the recommendations
• Tell us about the impact
• Grow the UK’s healthy workplace community
If you are an HR professional interested in receiving more information, contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Citing the evidence
Evidence informs us that working age adults and younger people with diabetes are less likely to complete Structured Education, which can result in poor health outcomes.
The All Party Parliamentary Group for Diabetes’ report: Taking control: Supporting people to self-manage their diabetes (March 2015) highlighted that many structured education courses require substantial time off work during the week; and that this is a major disincentive to attendance as people often do not wish to use annual leave for this purpose.
A recommendation from the report states: “The clear benefits to people’s health of attending education courses mean that the Government should give people a legal right to time off work to attend education courses about their diabetes that their healthcare team believe are appropriate to their needs.” (3) NICE recommends that well-designed and well-implemented structured education programmes are likely to be cost-effective for people with diabetes and should be offered to every person and/or their carer at and around the time of diagnosis, with annual reinforcement and review.
1 Healthy Work – Evidence into Action 2010 page 46
2 BUPA, Workplace Health – A Worthwhile Investment, 2010
3 Taking Control: Supporting people to self-manage their diabetes, page 20 – APPG Diabetes Report