20th November 2009 West Lothian Council appoints FirstCare to provide absence management
West Lothian Council has appointed FirstCare to provide a Nurse Led Call Centre absence management facility for 500 of its 8,500 permanent employees.
The Council had previously piloted a nurse led call centre approach to absence management and following the success of the pilot, which has shown a downward trend in sickness absence, the Council was keen to adopt this approach on a more permanent basis, to improve both sickness absence rates and management information provided to managers.
Employees in the Domiciliary Care Service and Neighbourhood Environmental Teams will now call in to FirstCare’s central call centre to report an absence, replacing the former paper based system.
Chris Keenan, HR Project Manager for the West Lothian pilot, explained why the Council had chosen to appoint an outsourced provider. He said, “These are two particular Services with higher than average sickness levels and their employees work remotely, making a paper-based system more difficult to manage in terms of keeping information up to date. Reporting into a call centre allows real time data to be collated and reported to us as it happens, so that it is easier for us to plan and provide solutions. In Domiciliary Care, obviously if a carer is sick, a replacement must be found rapidly to provide care for their client, so a timely reporting system is vital for managers.”
The costs of sickness absence, particularly in the Domiciliary Care services where replacement staff must be found to cover for absentees, are an added pressure on the care budget. West Lothian Council, which already outsources its occupational health function successfully, is hoping to see significant financial benefits from appointing FirstCare, which has consistently delivered major cost savings for a range of existing clients.
“We also wanted to ensure more consistency in the application of our sickness policies, and the FirstCare system prompts managers to conduct return to work interviews , a measure which has been shown to help reduce sickness absence levels,” added Mr Keenan.
The real time data which FirstCare will provide will also help the Council to distinguish between specific causes of sickness absence, enabling them to allocate resources towards improving their employees’ health and wellbeing.