A NEW study has identified a significant shortfall in patients with life-long but treatable conditions re-entering employment.

The research is being presented today at the annual Society for Endocrinology BES meeting in Manchester.

Endocrine conditions result in life-long imbalances in the body’s hormones. But symptoms can be stabilised with medication and patients can enjoy a healthy, normal life.

Led by Prof John Wass, of the Churchill Hospital, Oxford, the group found that under half of patients with chronic endocrine conditions returned to work.

The study is the first to show the effect of long-term endocrine conditions on employment status, and highlights the need for increased medical and social support for patients to return to work.

However, patients suffering from chronic conditions may be at increased risk of long term unemployment, a known contributor to poorer health and increased health inequality.

Improving return to work among this group of patients may contribute to improvements in their health and quality of life.

Prof John Wass, Dr Barbara Alberts and Dr Emily Parker examined unemployment and return to work rates among people with a variety of long-term endocrine conditions – Addison’s disease, Cushing’s disease, craniopharyngioma and Klinefelter’s syndrome.

In a group of 130 patients, they found a high rate of unemployment (40.8% vs 27.5% for the UK population1). 60.8% reported a period of unemployment which was related to their disease, and only 40% of 130 patients had entered or re-entered work following a period of unemployment.

Researcher Prof Wass, consultant endocrinologist, Oxford Radcliffe Hospitals NHS Trust, said:

“Long term unemployment is a significant problem for people with chronic diseases. More people should consider returning to work following diagnosis and more doctors need to encourage and support their patients in this.

“Whilst a return to work may not be suitable for all patients, it can significantly improve their wellbeing and quality of life.

“As a country, we need to provide more support services to allow people with long-term conditions to re-enter the workplace, at a rate that is feasible for them.”