Can arthritis sufferers stay at work? Arthritis Research UK is a charity located in Derbyshire, England, that wants to find out. In the October issue of Occupational Therapy Magazine there was an article outlining Arthritis Research UK’s launching of a 3-year pilot study “to see how people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) who struggle to stay in employment after diagnosis could be better helped and supported to stay in work.” The study will be overseen by Professor Alison Hammond from the University of Salford’s Centre for Health, Sport and Rehabilitation in Manchester.
As the article explained, as part of the pilot study Professor Hammond and her team plan to recruit 100 people with RA who are struggling to stay at work. Half will have three intensive one-to-one meetings with occupational therapists in which all options for work-place support will be examined and implemented, as part of a structured assessment process.
The other half, the control group, will be given a self-help booklet on how to stay in work. The two outcomes of the two approaches will then be compared. “If the pilot project shows that vocational rehabilitation is effective in keeping more people in work it will be rolled out into a full-scale clinical trial,” explained Professor Hammond.
“Currently, up to 40% of people with RA give up work within five years of being diagnosed, and rarely return to employment,” a spokesperson for Arthritis Research UK said.
The pilot study will evaluate the effectiveness of vocational rehabilitation in keeping RA patients working, including interventions such as changing jobs, retraining, introducing more flexible working hours and practical adaptations. “Most people with inflammatory arthritis experience a period when they struggle to meet job demands and take increasing sick leave, despite their desire to stay in work, and this is the time when vocational rehabilitation could be most effective,” said Professor Hammond.
A simple “practical adaptation” for RA suffers who try to keep working is my UGLee Pen. Its revolutionary design helps arthritic hands grasp and write without added stress or pain to the hand or fingers. As I explain on my website: “The overall shape, as well as the detailed contours, are perfectly engineered to follow the anatomy of the hand. You don’t have to grip this material, it grips you.” What a relief for an arthritis sufferer!