The Business Disability Forum has welcomed the announcement of £5.9 billion in additional funding to tackle NHS waiting times but says that focusing on diagnostics and testing is not enough.
Giving its reaction following yesterday’s Budget, the organisation said there also needs to be better access to treatment and a focus on work which includes everyone in order to get staff back to work and to reduce the disability employment gap.
Angela Matthews, head of policy at Business Disability Forum, commented: “We welcome the additional funding to help reduce NHS waiting times. Even before the pandemic, employers were telling us that some employees were waiting nine months to receive an initial assessment with a consultant.
“But focusing just on diagnosis is not enough. Employers are experiencing people staying off sick until they get treated; not just until they get assessed. Diagnostics and testing need to be promptly followed by treatment and getting the individual to ‘recovery’ as quickly as possible. Rehabilitation is a huge chasm in the NHS; where it can, the NHS is getting employees ready to leave hospital, but it is not getting them ready to return to work.”
Matthews said that if the government is serious about closing the disability employment gap and getting people back to work following a period of long-term sickness absence, it needs to think much more strategically.
“By not doing so, the government is adding to the staffing pressures currently facing businesses. It is also increasing the cost of living with a disability. We know that many disabled people are having to use their Personal Independence Payments (PIP) to buy in medication, mobility equipment – such as wheelchairs and sticks – and to pay privately for services that help them manage their conditions and stay in work. These are costs which government should be covering through the NHS.”