Treatment professionals should focus on potential not limitation

Health professionals play a critical role in getting injured workers back on the job, a recent survey has found.
News article published

Friday 02 Sep 2011

Industries and topics
  • Aged care
  • Healthcare and social assistance
  • Return to work

Commissioned by WorkSafe Victoria, the Newspoll survey shows 93% of Victorians believe doctors and physiotherapists had an important role to play when it came to getting injured workers back on the job.*

Other findings reveal 71% of Victorians thought injured workers would benefit from returning to different work duties before they were fully recovered.

The new research supports clinical evidence that says work is generally good for health and wellbeing and is an essential part of recovery.

Occupational Physician, Dr Kevin Sleigh, said getting back to work, even if it was before an injured person fully recovered, could greatly assist a patient’s rehabilitation and should be a primary aim of the treatment process.

“There is increasing evidence that the sooner an injured person returns to work, the better,” he said.

“We need more people to have a conversation about the potential for a return to work to get the best health outcome for the patient. It’s important the conversation focuses on what the injured person can do instead of what they can’t.”

“There won’t be a return to work option in every case, but unless the conversation is had many people will languish unnecessarily at home.”

“GPs can be the conduit between the injured worker and their employer to collaboratively put in place the best recovery process.”

WorkSafe recently launched its ‘Return to Work, Return to Life’ campaign to help workers and employers understand the importance of getting back to work after injury.

Around 28,000 Victorian workers suffer work-related injuries each year, with around 3000 workers out of the workforce for more than six months due to a workplace injury.

In the past five years, nearly 150,000 Victorians have lodged compensation claims with WorkSafe, totalling more than $2.7 billion in treatment and rehabilitation costs.

Last year, the Australasian Faculty of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, under the auspices of The Royal Australasian College of Physicians, issued a statement about the Health Benefits of Work, which is available at

The Australian and New Zealand Consensus Statement has been supported by a wide range of organisations representing treatment professionals, employers and other groups.

These include The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, the Royal Australasian College of Physicians, the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation, the Business Council of Australia, WorkSafe Victoria and similar organisations in other states.

Practical ways of helping patients back to employment and optimum functioning include:

  • Recommending a graduated increase in activity and setting a timeline for return to work;
  • Talking to the employer (preferably with the patient), about work opportunities based on work capacity or how to modify the workplace and work duties to allow return to work;
  • Collaboratively identifying obstacles – and solutions – in the workplace;
  • Being clear about what health care can, and can’t, achieve, and
  • Identifying possible sources of support, including family members, co-workers and relevant services.

For more information about the campaign, visit

Other findings of the Newspoll survey:

  • 78% of people surveyed felt returning to work but performing different duties would help speed up the recovery process;
  • 96% said families played an important role in helping return to work;
  • 68% agreed that returning to work but performing different duties would definitely provide an increased feeling of self-worth.

*Newspoll survey of 302 Victorian respondents, conducted by telephone over the period of July 8-10 2011