Urgent advice needed

Question: I have worked for the same company for ten years. I have been treated for the last 13 months with bad wrists which now includes hands , fingers , forearm, elbows and occasionally shoulders. My doctor is leaving things to my rheumatologist who did a bone scan just before xmas. The scan showed inflammation on both arms but the rheumy is uncertain as to whether it is arthritis and thinks it is more work related.

I have been informed today that unless I let my works doctor contact the specialist that they will no longer believe that there is anything wrong. And also that if I don’t get pain relief and start to do everything I am employed to do that my employment will be terminated. At the moment I get pain even doing the silliest things e.g. carrying a paper! I have tried all sorts of anti inflammatory and things like co-dydamol , co-codeine, co-proxamol. I had a cortisone jab a few weeks ago and it made not difference. I don’t go back to the rheumy until 12 march, and he has put me on the cancellation list. What is my next step? Any advice?

Answer 1: If you have nothing to hide about your condition, and it seems as if you don’t, then let the works doctor contact your consultant. If you really are in a lot of pain it might be advisable for your doctor to give you a certificate for some time off work. My doctor wanted to do this for me and I refused. Unfortunately my condition worsened and I should have listened to his advice. On Net Doctor today there is evidence that Glucosamine Sulphate may help arthritic conditions.You can buy this at the chemist, it may or may not help.

If your consultant thinks it may be work related then unless you take time off to see if the condition improves, you will not know.  As regards your employer threatening you with terminating your employment if you do not get pain relief, this may have legal implications for your employer and constitute unfair dismissal. I think it may be necessary to get some advice for example from the Citizens Advice Bureau on your employment rights.

Answer 2: I don’t see anything wrong with letting the company’s doctor examine you – perhaps he could suggest what your next medical step is, liaise with your GP/specialist as to pain relief and so on, and (hopefully) report back to your employer about what you need. But it might also be worth getting a letter off your GP/specialist to your employer about your condition, preferably before you see the company doctor. If he’s also to contact the specialist I would contact the specialist yourself ASAP and put him on warning, tell him your job is under threat, etc, and see if he’s sympathetic and will do anything to help your cause.

He might even recommend some time off, which it sounds as if you need, although I know it isn’t easy in the present circumstances.  However, if the employment situation is as bad as you think then personally I would be consulting a lawyer about your rights, and sharpish – for all I whine about how ineffective certain laws are, yours may be a case where there may be some help and protection available, perhaps under H&S law, Disability Discrimination or general Employment Rights – it depends, obviously, on the precise facts. Many lawyers do free initial consultations and may take a case on a no win no fee basis of it has to go that far.

Can you contact your specialist and see if he can/will put anything in writing about your condition being work related – that would no doubt help a great deal.  Have you tried/got any different workstation equipment? Access to Work might again be helpful here.

Answer 3: I agree with another comment made that you should take some time off work to see if it gets better on its own first of all. I didn’t listen to advice given and have ended up off work for about 4 months now. Since Xmas I have been taking Amitriptyline, which is an antidepressant; but in low doses, it works on the nervous system and de-sensitises the nerves, working as a pain killer.

Anti-inflammatories did nothing for me, but since the Amitriptyline I have had v. little shoulder and upper arm pain and my wrist pain has significantly improved. I have also found Physio and Acupuncture have released a lot of the muscle tension in these areas.  As you have been with your employer for over 2 years, you have a lot of rights – seek advice so that you know what they are and inform your employer too!!

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