Development and feasibility of an intervention featuring individual supported work placements to aid return-to-work for unemployed people living with chronic pain

Rob Froud, Mary Grant, Kim Burton, Jonathan Foss, David R Ellard, Kate Seers , Deb Smith, Mariana Barillec, Shilpa Patel, Kirstie Haywood, Martin Underwood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Working in good jobs is associated with good health. High unemployment rates are reported in those disabled with musculo skeletal pain.Supported employment interventions work well for helping people with mental health difficulties to gain and retain employment. With adaptation these may be useful for people with chronic pain. We aimed to develop and explore the feasibility of delivering such an adapted intervention.Methods: We developed an intervention and recruited unemployed people with chronic pain from NHS pain clinics and employment services. We trained case managers to assess participants and match them to six-week work placements in the Midlands, and provide ongoing support to them and their managers. Participants attended a two-day work preparation session prior to placement. Outcome measures included quality of life at baseline, six-weeks, 14-weeks, and six-months, and return to work at 14-weeks and six-months. We held focus groups or interviews with stakeholders to examine acceptability and experiences of the intervention.Results: We developed an intervention consisting of work preparation sessions, work experience placements, and individualised employment support. We enrolled 31 people; 27 attended work preparation sessions, and 15 attended placements. Four of our participants started jobs during the study period. We are aware of two others starting jobs shortly after cessation of follow-up. We experienced challenges to recruitment in one area where we had many and diverse placement opportunities, and good recruitment in another area where we had a smaller range of placement opportunities. All stakeholders found the intervention acceptable and it was valued by those given a placement. While there was some disappointment among those not placed, this group still valued the work preparation sessions.Conclusions: The developed intervention was acceptable to participants and partners. Trialling the developed intervention could be feasible with attention to three main processes. To ensure advanced availability of a sufficiently wide range of work placements in each area, multiple partners would be needed. Multiple recruitment sites and focus on employment services will yield better recruitment rates than reliance on NHS pain clinics. Maintaining an adequate follow-up response rate will likely require additional approaches with more than the usual effort.
Original languageEnglish
Article number49
Number of pages15
JournalPilot and Feasibility Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 22 Apr 2020


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