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County council successfully pilot psychological assessments

County council successfully pilot psychological assessments

“The clinical insights provided by Validium enabled us to get over half of those taking part in the pilot back to full performance”

Paddy Lorenzen | Occupational Health and Well-being Manager | Norfolk County Council

 

The challenge

When Norfolk County Council benefited from using physical assessments to help employees with musculoskeletal problems return to work, it wanted to pilot a similarly fact-based approach to addressing mental health concerns…

Paddy Lorenzen, Occupational Health and Well-Being Manager, explains, “As part of our commitment to helping employees reduce absence and stay in work, we introduced a fast-track physiotherapy programme. This programme included functional assessments to identify what the employee was physically capable of doing. That sort of factual information has proved essential to making the right workplace adjustments, to keep employees affected by physical problems healthy and working. It occurred to me that a similarly robust psychological assessment could be equally valuable for helping managers and employees deal with mental health conditions affecting work.”

He adds, “Previously, we found a traditional referral to occupational health didn’t always give information that helped a manager and employee address the situation. Managers were left unsure if and how an absent employee suffering from an issue like stress, anxiety or depression would return to work, while the employee remained in a state of limbo. Managers were also left unsure how to support individuals at work but experiencing mental health problems such as OCD or depression, which resulted in them not performing or behaving adequately. Going forward, we wanted to get the factual insights required to understand in what capacity the employee could currently work and what was required to help them stay in work.”

“We wanted to get the factual insights required to understand in what capacity the employee could work.”


The approach

“We were very impressed with Validium, our existing Employee Assistance Provider, because of the emotional and practical support provided to our 22,000 employees since 2010. We were also impressed by the collaborative way they worked with IPRS, our fast-track physiotherapy provider, to support employees with a physical injury which also had a psychological component, such as fear of pain, rather than actual pain itself,” says Paddy.

He adds, “We were also aware of Validium’s psychological health expertise and the work they were doing with well-known employers to rehabilitate absent employees, so we invited them to conduct a psychological assessment pilot with us.”


The solution

“After discussing the psychological assessments Validium could offer, our HR department identified 21 cases that might benefit from a psychological assessment,” explains Paddy. “Of these, two individuals refused to give their consent and four resigned prior to the referral being made. Of the 15 staff who went on to be referred, six had been off work for 3-52 weeks, while the remaining nine had been at work, but were struggling to fulfil their duties.”

The findings of the individual psychological assessments carried out by Validium’s chartered psychologists were shared with the council, only with the individual’s consent, and revealed a variety of issues preventing return to work or effectiveness. “Validium gave us a very clear picture of the individual’s psychological health in relation to work and suggested adjustments for the employee, their manager and HR to talk through. In the event that the individual needed treatment to recover, Validium gave us a clear indication of costs and the likelihood of recovery,” says Paddy. 


The results

“The psychological assessment gave those people affected the opportunity to reflect on what they were and weren’t psychologically suited to do at work. Three individuals agreed to be redeployed into other areas of the council, one temporarily and two permanently. Their new roles enabled them to reduce their level of responsibility, along with a reduction in grade. All six employees who were absent returned and are now fully performing at work again,” says Paddy.

“Two more participants resigned and another two were provided with treatment, which they were incredibly grateful for. Both the employees felt the Validium psychologist was the first person to really understand what they were going through and essential to their recovery,” says Paddy. “Two more were deemed so affected by depression they met the criteria for ill health retirement. The remaining three were dismissed when the assessment showed they needed extensive treatment, for only a limited chance of recovery, which we considered to be an unreasonable adjustment. We let them go with the option to return if and when they recovered.”

He concludes, “The clinical insights provided by Validium enabled us to get over half of those taking part in the pilot back to full performance and concluded all the other cases. It has saved money being spent on wasted management time, decreased productivity and replacement staff costs. As a result of the success of the pilot, we’re continuing to use psychological assessments to resolve other mental health related cases.”

“Validium gave us a very clear picture of the individual’s health in relation to work and suggested adjustments for the employee, their manager and HR to talk through.”

Paddy Lorenzen | Occupational Health and Well-being Manager | Norfolk County Council