Background: Long-term sick leave has been of concern to politicians and decision-makers in Norway for several years. In the current study we assess the feasibility and effectiveness of offering a voluntary, solution-focused follow-up to sick-listed employees.
Methods: Employees on long-term sick leave due to psychological problems or muscle skeletal pain were randomly allocated to be offered a solution-focused follow-up (n = 122) or "treatment as usual" (n = 106). The intervention was integrated within 2 social security offices' regular follow-up. The intervention group was informed about the offer with letters, telephone calls and information meetings. Feasibility was measured by rate of uptake to the intervention, and effectiveness by number of days on sick leave.
Results: In general, few were reached with the different information elements. While the letter was sent to all, only 31% were reached by telephone and 15% attended the information meetings. Thirteen employees (11.5%) in the intervention group participated in the solution-focused follow-up. Intention to treat analysis showed no difference in mean length of sick leave between the intervention group (217 days) and the control group (189 days) (p = 0,101).
Conclusion: Even if the information strategy might be improved, it is not likely that a voluntary solution-focused follow-up offered by the social security offices would result in measurable reduction in length of sick leave on a population level. However, the efficacy of a solution-focused follow-up for the persons reporting a need for this approach should be further investigated.