[PDF] Depression screening and management of staff on long-term sickness absence : occupational health practice in the NHS in England

Royal College of Physicians of London - RCP
Royal College of Physicians (RCP)
Publication date:
01 February 2010


This national comparative clinical audit measures how well NHS staff on long-term sickness absence are screened for depression by occupational health (OH) doctors and nurses.

OH doctors and nurses frequently see employees who have been on long-term sickness absence. Most staff are referred by their managers. While some staff will already have been diagnosed with a psychological illness, others will be off sick with a physical problem.

It is well documented that many people with chronic physical symptoms also develop depression. The longer an employee is off sick, the more likely this becomes; and the less likely they are to make a successful return to work. Long-term sickness absence has repercussions for the individual, their family, their employer, the benefit system and the wider economy and society as a whole.

To facilitate optimum management of staff on long-term sickness absence it is important that any clinicians involved in their care screen regularly for depression; and this includes OH professionals. While there are no specific guidelines for such screening by OH professionals, there is a relevant NICE Guideline on the management of depression in primary and secondary care. This national guideline was used to develop standards against which the care provided by OH doctors and nurses looking after NHS staff in England could be measured.