Employee support service expansion ‘vital’ to helping ease pressure on region

The implementation of a scheme in West Wales helping employees who are absent or at risk of becoming absent from work return to their roles with ease will boost the area’s productivity, according to one Carmarthenshire mental health practitioner.

Community interest not-for-profit RCS has expanded services to Carmarthenshire and Ceredigion to provide further assistance to those who live or work in the counties and who are absent from their job or are at risk of sickness absence.

And according to specialist mental health practitioner Sharon Langford from the Meddygfa Tymbl in Upper Tumble and the Brynteg Medical Practice in Ammanford, the programme has arrived at a time of unprecedented demand for GPs.

Sharon said: “We have seen a significant increase in people with work-related stress and mental health challenges due to Covid-19 who would not normally seek help at a GP surgery before.

“I currently see roughly 65 patients a week, and that figure has steeply increased over the course of the pandemic as more workers recognise the need for assistance in times of distress.

“Each lockdown and wave of restrictions has only increased that reliance on the system, so there has rapidly become a need for services which can support us in our roles to assist patients through those challenges.

“It has gotten to the point where we are starting to see impacts on the region’s productivity as absences are piling up for a number of reasons, with mental health being one of the key ones.”

RCS provides its In Work Support programme, which is part-funded by European Social Funding through Welsh Government, to anyone who is absent from work or at risk of becoming absent from work through illness, offering free and rapid assistance and therapy to help them return to employment.

The service is available to employed or self-employed people who live or work in Carmarthenshire and Ceredigion.

Those eligible can access a wide range of support tailored to individual needs, including up to six sessions of talking therapies, coaching or physical therapies to help with mental or physical health conditions, as well as specialist support such as help with employment issues, finances, or debt.

Sharon added: “In more rural areas like we have here in West Wales, groups like RCS which can aid workers across a larger footprint where comfort and wellbeing is a core focus will be nothing but a benefit for individuals and the area as a whole.

“Stress and mental health challenges can play a major part in slowing down a worker’s productivity and in the past, the stigma of mental health has meant many people are unwilling to seek help.

“As RCS offers remote and confidential help, people can take solace in taking advantage of treatment without those external pressures which come with seeking treatment in close-knit communities and workplaces.”

Delivery manager at RCS Mandy Bowler said: “The last two years have seen a massive shift amongst the workforce where wellbeing and mental health is being focused on more than ever.

“However, this increase in attention has meant that the health services are swiftly approaching capacity in terms of the patients they can treat, so anything we can do to help ease that pressure on workers and health systems is a positive.

“Maintaining a strong sense of wellbeing is vital and our core goal is ensuring those whose health is affecting them at work  can get back up and running sooner especially in more rural areas where that support may not have been previously accessible.”