The benefits of early intervention in work disability

A system-wide focus on early intervention should be considered an investment, rather than simply a cost; properly integrated services, where primary and secondary, specialist, care work together efficiently make for timely, effective interventions, reducing the long-term economic and clinical burden of delayed and ineffective interventions in many conditions including physical disabilities and chronic diseases.

In addition to the obvious clinical benefits to patients and their families, the economic benefits of early intervention, felt by a range of stakeholders, are three-fold:

Employees can remain in or return to work early, thus maintaining their functional capacity, productivity, and contribution to socioeconomic stability and growth

Early intervention can reduce healthcare costs by up to two-thirds by preventing chronic conditions from deteriorating further1

Savings are generated beyond healthcare: disability benefit costs can be reduced by up to 80% and the risk of permanent work disability and job loss can up to 50%2

Potential benefits to the EU

This infographic shows the number of days lost to MSK conditions each year and provides estimates, based on modelling, of the effect of repeating the results of the Madrid clinic3 across 12 EU Member States where comparable data exists. The available data only cover 70% of the EU workforce. These estimates show that, if temporary work disability was reduced by 25%, the equivalent number of additional EU workers available for work each day would be 425,000.*

The equivalent number of additional workers available to work each day if the Madrid results were replicated uniformly across the EU (i.e. a 39% reduction in temporary work disability) would be 660,000*.


*These data assume a lower success in reducing temporary work disability than the Madrid clinic – 25% rather than 39% – as the way patients are referred to early intervention services, such as the Madrid clinic, will vary considerably between countries. The data is therefore based in a more cautious scenario. Nonetheless, the number of lost working days avoided, even in this scenario, is still substantial, and shows the potential impact that wider access to early intervention may have across the EU.

1 Bevan, S. (2015). Exploring the benefits of early interventions which help people with chronic illness remain in work. London: The Work Foundation.
2 Bevan, S. (2015). Exploring the benefits of early interventions which help people with chronic illness remain in work. London: The Work Foundation.
3 Abasolo, L., Blanco, M., Bachiller, J., Candelas, G., Collado, P., Lajas, C. … Jover, J. (2005). A Health System Program to Reduce Work Disability Related to Musculoskeletal Disorders. Annals of Internal Medicine,143, 404–414.

Fit for Work Global Alliance is led by The Work Foundation and supported by AbbVie.

Toolkit partners:

Toolkit sponsor:

Fit for Work Global Alliance is a multi-stakeholder initiative, driving policy and practice change across the work and health agendas in Europe and worldwide (over 35 countries). The vision is to raise awareness of the facts of MSKs and make the case for more investment in sustainable healthcare by promoting and supporting the implementation of early intervention practices. Fit for Work is led by The Work Foundation – Lancaster University, which is also providing the Secretariat. AbbVie is founding sponsor since 2008. All the research is produced independently by The Work Foundation, with full editorial control resting with the think-thank alone.

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