Civil Nuclear Constabulary uses physiotherapy benefit to reduce employee absence

Civil Nuclear Constabulary

Armed police force, the Civil Nuclear Constabulary (CNC), introduced a physiotherapy benefit for its 1,500 UK employees to reduce presenteeism and absences related to musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs).

The CNC, which operates from 11 national sites, decided to trial a physiotherapy triage benefit, provided by Physio Med, in May 2016 in order to mitigate concerns that heavy body armour and firearms were causing MSDs in its employees. The organisation was also worried that employees were masking potential MSD symptoms to avoid being non-deployable, which could then lead to the MSD worsening.

Emma Aldred, head of occupational health and wellbeing at the CNC, says: “Unfortunately, when people have certain conditions we can’t allow them to do their role. We can’t make the same sort of reasonable adjustments that [employers] can normally do in other organisations. [We] can’t give someone body armour and firearms if they have a musculoskeletal injury because we know that that’s going to make them worse.

“We had a concern that people potentially weren’t flagging up to us when they had minor injuries because they were concerned about becoming non-deployable, so we felt that if we gave them the ability to actually phone up themselves confidentially, and have that [physiotherapy] treatment, then actually that would resolve it before it became a chronic, serious issue.”

All employees took part in the five-month trial of the physiotherapy triage service, commencing May 2016. The organisation then went on to fully implement the benefit from October 2016. It was launched via an all-employee email, information on the staff intranet and noticeboards and promoted in the occupational health and wellbeing team’s monthly bulletin.

The service allows employees to confidentially phone an independent patient advice line to speak to a physiotherapist, who will then assess whether the case can be dealt with by discussing advice and exercises over the phone, or whether the employee needs to be referred for treatment. Injuries present for 12 weeks or more are instantly referred, while early stage MSDs can be helped over the phone.

During the five-month trial period, 179 cases were progressed. Around 78% of these were chronic conditions and were, therefore, sent for treatment, with the remaining 22% dealt with over the phone. Only four of the 179 cases remained off work following treatment, and there was a reported perceived pain reduction of more than 65% among employees who returned to work following treatment.

The physiotherapy benefit now forms part of CNC’s overall health and wellbeing strategy. Supported by nurses, a physician, fitness specialists and a psychologist, the organisation utilises benefits such as an employee assistance programme (EAP), annual medical check-ups and lifestyle check-ups, which can measure cholesterol levels or body composition. It also has gyms at all its sites, as well as staff who are trained to provide tailored nutritional advice and fitness plans.

Aldred concludes: “It has been a really effective scheme, and it is part of a wider occupational health and wellbeing provision that we’ve been establishing over the last few years. If we were to just implement it on its own, it wouldn’t have been as successful. It’s part of a bigger picture.”