In-surgery job advisers set to treble

A UK pilot housing employment advisers in GP surgeries is being expanded to 40 locations as part of a £13 million project, according to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

The aim of the free service is to offer patients advice on returning to work or finding a job and on what they can do to avoid being out of work because of a long-term condition.

The pilots in Bridgend, Wales, Paisley and Argyll in Scotland, and Somerset, Gateshead and East Lancashire in England, will be independently assessed in March 2008. But the DWP appears happy with the schemes because it plans to roll out to 12 new locations at a cost of £5 million over three years.

Employment advisers will work from more than one surgery in each area, bringing the total reach to 40 practices involving up to 4,000 patients.

The pilots mirror a scheme launched by employment charity Tomorrow's People, which oversees employment advisers in more than 80 surgeries in London, Bristol, Liverpool, Glasgow and Devon.

One of the charity's first advisers was installed at the James Wigg Practice in Kentish Town, north London, in 2002.

Dr Roy Macgregor, a GP at the practice, said the adviser worked one day a week offering 50-minute sessions on help with CV development, interview techniques, career development and training possibilities.

Writing in his practice newsletter, Dr Macgregor said: 'More than 200 patients have used the service and 87 per cent of patients who have completed the full programme have moved into employment or training. Of those, 82 per cent are still in employment 12 months later.'

The new advisers are expected to start work in the second half of 2008. No details of location have been revealed.

The remaining £8 million is to fund an advice and support service for smaller businesses as part of a new approach to help people with stress and other mental health conditions find and keep work. It is unclear exactly how this will work but the DWP said the possibility of providing support and advice for GPs as part of efforts to more closely align employment and healthcare services would be explored.

Health secretary Alan Johnson said: 'This package is designed to help people keep well and in work.'

neil.durham@haymarket.com

Department of Work and Pensions

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