A recent report from the Lancaster University’s Work Foundation called for more specialist nurses to render focused care to patients suffering from inflammatory bowel diseases, such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, in the workplace. The report also called on the government to reform federal services, like Access to Work and Fit for Work, to better meet the needs of these working patients.
The Work Foundation report drew evidence from a series of one-on-one interviews with employees with IBD and their employers, and aims to further understand the impact IBD makes on people’s work. It touched on several subjects, such as overall satisfaction, financial concerns, and degree of job flexibility to illustrate how these factors influence one’s employment decisions, as IBD’s lifelong, unpredictable, and oftentimes uncomfortable nature poses a daily challenge to the average worker.
In the report, both employers and employees mentioned the significant benefit of having access to specialist nurses for support in the workplace. Through these healthcare professionals, they have a reliable and efficient source of information about their condition, ranging from initial diagnosis to treatment and ways to cope. Some of the approaches the report recommended to improve IBD patients’ experience in the workplace were:
- Individuals equipping themselves with information and having the confidence to disclose their condition
- Employers ensuring that line managers are good people managers and developing a supportive culture which offers flexibility and occupational health services
- Patient charities raising awareness among employers
Lead author, Dr. Zofia Bajorek, said: “Individuals with IBD will do anything they can to work in their chosen career. However, our evidence suggests various factors, including individual constraints, healthcare-related support and organizational management structures remain barriers to employment.”
“Joined-up working from relevant stakeholders ensuring positive employment relationships, supportive organizational cultures, improved diagnosis and awareness of IBD and the appropriate information provided to employees and employers as to how IBD is managed in the workplace must be improved so that individuals with IBD can enter, remain and ensure productivity in the workplace.”
Helen Terry, the director of policy, public affairs and research at Crohn’s and Colitis UK explained that IBD nurse specialists play a pivotal role in the delivery of high-quality care and improving quality of life for their patients. Our recent survey found that those patients who had support from an IBD nurse were more than twice as likely to be ‘very satisfied’ with their care.
“It is regrettable, therefore, that the latest UK-wide audit of IBD services found that 14% still provide no IBD nursing for their patients and many others fall short of the recommended minimum level set out in the IBD Standards,” she said. “The expertise specialist nurses offer to patients is based on their unique understanding of the way in which IBD impacts on all aspects of life, including the importance of work and access to employment opportunities. We cannot emphasis enough the value that patients place on this support.”