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University of Huddersfield-Swiss Re KTP: a step ahead of latest NICE guidance




I am Sema, a Research Project Coordinator for a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) between the University of Huddersfield and Swiss Re, funded by Innovate UK and Swiss Re. The KTP initiative has been running for more than 40 years now to foster collaboration between UK universities and businesses to meet a core strategic need, or identify solutions that would help the business grow. These KTP projects are designed to be implemented by an intermediary between the University and the business, known as a KTP Associate (me).

My job as a KTP Associate on this project is to act as an intermediary between the University of Huddersfield and Swiss Re - a conduit. The plan is to implement world-leading research developed at the University to design an enhanced income protection product for Swiss Re which will reduce work loss due to ill-health.

How does the KTP tie-in with the recent NICE guidance?

The recent NICE guidance on supporting people with health conditions and/or disabilities to stay in or return to work highlights important components of our existing KTP project. Particularly around the benefits of;

  1. Tailoring workplace adjustments to the worker's needs and role,

  2. Developing a return-to-work (RTW) plan with agreed timeframes for completion, and

  3. Regularly monitoring and reviewing the RTW plan to ensure both worker's and employer needs continue to be met.

Whilst evidence suggests these strategies play an important role in helping people RTW and remain at work, we struggle to implement them. This is the focus of our KTP project. It takes a very different - some would say radical - approach. Basically, we are taking out the middle man. In so doing, we intend to overcome the implementation problem. We are going to support and empower the person (the worker) to be their own case manager! An online app will give them the evidence-informed information and tools needed to build their own RTW Action Plan, and to agree it with their manager - these two key elements are what is often missing from traditional approaches. While it is an insurance-led innovation, it is not intending to replace current workplace policies and practice, rather it is proposed to run along-side them. It will be available to individuals irrespective of sector, their condition or job role.


Co-produced with all stakeholders involved in the process, we are hoping that this approach will overcome many implementation obstacles and get more people back to work/help them to stay in work.


Where are we now?

We are currently in the content development phase. This involves several meetings with key stakeholders, including individuals with previous/on-going sickness absence experiences, to gather and align knowledge around what is likely to work in practice. The process is informed by the most up-to-date evidence from the knowledge mobilisation field and is very iterative - the content is subject to modification with successive input from stakeholders. Therefore, our novel RTW tool is informed by the evidence-base and potential users to maximise engagement (and thus implementation).


What's next?

The next phase will be to develop a working prototype. In line with the open-innovation principles of a KTP, a company formed by University of Huddersfield graduates - Torchbearer - will be doing this work. These are exciting times for us and I am looking forward to updating you on our progress. If you want to know more about our project, please send me an email below.


Dr. Abasiama Etuknwa (Business and Management, PhD.) | Research Project Coordinator (Work & Health) - KTP Associate | University of Huddersfield (A.B.Etuknwa@hud.ac.uk)

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