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Dutch primary health care providers are not attentive to the patient’s work situation

In the care provided by the Primary health care providers, a quick and sustainable resumption of work plays an insignificant role, which results in an unnecessary loss of productivity. For the Netherlands this is estimated at potential annual savings of two billion euros. This has to changes, particularly in terms of primary healthcare being more attentive to work whose impact on health can be considerable, in both a positive and negative sense. Yet most working people yearn for specific attention and care for this relationship. This is why the World Health Organization, WHO, TNO and the Dutch government are co-organising the first Global Conference on ‘Connecting Health and Labour’ from 29 November until 1 December in The Hague.

Does work have an impact on symptoms? What treatment and intervention can not only alleviate symptoms but also sustain work or lead to a healthy, quick resumption of work? Being attentive to work-related aspects is even more vital given that occupational health and safety reaches just 10-15% of the world’s population while primary care is embedded in the very fabric of society. That is the view of Peter Buijs, company doctor and researcher at TNO and one of the organisers of the global ‘Connecting Health and Labour’ conference in The Hague.
Starting point for The Hague roadmap

The conference is seen by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a starting point, with experts from around 40 countries gathering to discuss a whole range of aspects of the key issue, for a strategy – a Roadmap of The Hague – for the coming years. Where is our knowledge sufficient to generate action and where are those areas in which we lack knowledge and need to research?

Potential savings in the Netherlands of two billion
The WHO selected TNO as co-organiser given TNO’s extensive expertise in the theme of the conference. Moreover, both the Netherlands and the Dutch government have a keen interest in the theme. Buijs: “That does not necessarily say that primary healthcare in the Netherlands is sufficiently attentive to the relationship between health and labour. In the National Survey of Working Conditions (NEA) by TNO and CBS, workers report that their GPs tend not to ask whether their symptoms could be related to their work. This is an opportunity lost to tackle health problems as effectively as possible. We cannot permit this, either from a health perspective or from the perspective of rising healthcare costs. An initial indicative calculation by TNO reveals that in the Netherlands annual savings could amount to around two billion euros.”