Professor Dame Carol Black tackles disability in the workplace

Dame Carol Black DBE, RFCP, FMedSci, Principal of Newnham College Cambridge and Expert Adviser on Health and Work to NHS England and Public Health England, gave a talk on Monday 29th January at the Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists in London, addressing musculoskeletal conditions, disability and employment. The lecture was hosted by the Arthritis & Musculoskeletal Alliance (ARMA) and Arthritis Action.

Having worked for over 10 years in the areas of work and health, Dame Carol Black has reviewed the field and explored the progress made and the challenges still to be overcome.

Dame Carol said:

“Musculoskeletal conditions are a leading cause of disability in the UK. Once a worker – especially a worker with a musculoskeletal condition loses their place in the labour market, it is very difficult for them to return.

“The gap in employment rate, between 47% for people with a disability and 80% for the rest of the population, is wider in the UK than in most other European countries. This is an avoidable waste of human capital and productive capacity which affects competitiveness, social and community cohesion, and family stability.

“The UK needs a workforce which is Fit for Work – ill-health in the working-age population is economically inefficient and socially corrosive. The government has acknowledged this in both its Green and Command Papers. It is now time for action.”

Shantel Irwin, Chief Executive of Arthritis Action, said:

“There are currently 10 million people with arthritis and other musculoskeletal conditions in the UK. It is the leading cause of pain and disability nationwide, resulting in a staggering loss of over 30 million working days[i] in 2017 at a cost of £2.58bn to the UK economy. More must be done to address this issue, and organisations, charities, and employers must come together to support more people with musculoskeletal conditions in the workplace. We are delighted to have partnered with ARMA to host this lecture on this pressing topic.”

In addition to her role in NHS England and Public Health England, Dame Carol also chairs the Nuffield Trust for Research and Policy Studies in Health Services, and is also a member of the Welsh Government’s Bevan Commission on health in Wales. She has recently completed for the Prime Minister an independent review of the impact of addiction to drugs, alcohol or obesity on employment and the benefits system.

[i] http://www.arthritisresearchuk.org/jointproblem.aspx