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      Execution of a participatory supportive return to work program within the Dutch social security sector: a qualitative evaluation of stakeholders’ perceptions

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          A process evaluation of a participatory supportive return to work program, aimed at workers without a (permanent) employment contract who are sick-listed due to a common mental disorder, revealed that this program was executed less successfully than similar programs evaluated in earlier studies. The program consisted of a participatory approach, integrated care and direct placement in competitive employment. Aim of this study was to get a better understanding of the execution of the program by evaluating stakeholders’ perceptions. In the absence of an employer, the program was applied by the Dutch Social Security Agency, in collaboration with vocational rehabilitation agencies. Together with the sick-listed workers, these were the main stakeholders. Our research questions involved stakeholders’ perceptions of the function(s) of the program, and their perceptions of barriers and facilitators for a successful execution of the program within the Dutch social security sector.


          Semi-structured interviews were held with five sick-listed workers, eight professionals of the Social Security Agency, and two case managers of vocational rehabilitation agencies. Interview topics were related to experiences with different components of the program. Selection of respondents was based on purposive sampling and continued until data saturation was reached. Content analysis was applied to identify patterns in the data. Two researchers developed a coding system, based on predefined topics and themes emerging from the data.


          Although perceived functions of some components of the program were as intended, all stakeholders stressed that the program often had not resulted in return to work. Perceived barriers for a successful execution were related to a poor collaboration between the Dutch Social Security Agency, vocational rehabilitation agencies and healthcare providers, the type of experienced (health) problems, time constraints, and limited job opportunities.


          For future implementation of the program, it will be important to consider how a better integration of services by the Dutch Social Security Agency, vocational rehabilitation agencies and the mental healthcare sector can be improved in order to address treatment and vocational needs simultaneously, and to better match the sick-listed worker with the limited opportunities in the Dutch labor market.

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          The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12889-016-2997-x) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

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          Use of qualitative methods alongside randomised controlled trials of complex healthcare interventions: methodological study

          Objective To examine the use of qualitative approaches alongside randomised trials of complex healthcare interventions. Design Review of randomised controlled trials of interventions to change professional practice or the organisation of care. Data sources Systematic sample of 100 trials published in English from the register of the Cochrane Effective Practice and Organisation of Care Review Group. Methods Published and unpublished qualitative studies linked to the randomised controlled trials were identified through database searches and contact with authors. Data were extracted from each study by two reviewers using a standard form. We extracted data describing the randomised controlled trials and qualitative studies, the quality of these studies, and how, if at all, the qualitative and quantitative findings were combined. A narrative synthesis of the findings was done. Results 30 of the 100 trials had associated qualitative work and 19 of these were published studies. 14 qualitative studies were done before the trial, nine during the trial, and four after the trial. 13 studies reported an explicit theoretical basis and 11 specified their methodological approach. Approaches to sampling and data analysis were poorly described. For most cases (n=20) we found no indication of integration of qualitative and quantitative findings at the level of either analysis or interpretation. The quality of the qualitative studies was highly variable. Conclusions Qualitative studies alongside randomised controlled trials remain uncommon, even where relatively complex interventions are being evaluated. Most of the qualitative studies were carried out before or during the trials with few studies used to explain trial results. The findings of the qualitative studies seemed to be poorly integrated with those of the trials and often had major methodological shortcomings.
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            Methods for exploring implementation variation and local context within a cluster randomised community intervention trial.

            Insignificant or modest findings in intervention trials may be attributable to poorly designed or theorised interventions, poorly implemented interventions, or inadequate evaluation methods. The pre-existing context may also account for the effects observed. A combination of qualitative and quantitative methods is outlined that will permit the determination of how context level factors might modify intervention effectiveness, within a cluster randomised community intervention trial to promote the health of mothers with new babies. The methods include written and oral narratives, key informant interviews, impact logs, and inter-organisational network analyses. Context level factors, which may affect intervention uptake, success, and sustainability are the density of inter-organisational ties within communities at the start of the intervention, the centrality of the primary care agencies expected to take a lead with the intervention, the extent of context-level adaptation of the intervention, and the amount of local resources contributed by the participating agencies. Investigation of how intervention effects are modified by context is a new methodological frontier in community intervention trial research.
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              Randomised controlled trial of integrated care to reduce disability from chronic low back pain in working and private life

              Objective To evaluate the effectiveness of an integrated care programme, combining a patient directed and a workplace directed intervention, for patients with chronic low back pain. Design Population based randomised controlled trial. Setting Primary care (10 physiotherapy practices, one occupational health service, one occupational therapy practice) and secondary care (five hospitals). Participants 134 adults aged 18-65 sick listed for at least 12 weeks owing to low back pain. Intervention Patients were randomly assigned to usual care (n=68) or integrated care (n=66). Integrated care consisted of a workplace intervention based on participatory ergonomics, involving a supervisor, and a graded activity programme based on cognitive behavioural principles. Main outcome measures The primary outcome was the duration of time off work (work disability) due to low back pain until full sustainable return to work. Secondary outcome measures were intensity of pain and functional status. Results The median duration until sustainable return to work was 88 days in the integrated care group compared with 208 days in the usual care group (P=0.003). Integrated care was effective on return to work (hazard ratio 1.9, 95% confidence interval 1.2 to 2.8, P=0.004). After 12 months, patients in the integrated care group improved significantly more on functional status compared with patients in the usual care group (P=0.01). Improvement of pain between the groups did not differ significantly. Conclusion The integrated care programme substantially reduced disability due to chronic low back pain in private and working life. Trial registration Current Controlled Trials ISRCTN28478651.

                Author and article information

                +31 20 444 5482 ,
                BMC Public Health
                BMC Public Health
                BMC Public Health
                BioMed Central (London )
                14 April 2016
                14 April 2016
                : 16
                [ ]Department of Public and Occupational Health, EMGO Institute for Health and Care Research, VU University Medical Center, P.O. Box 7057, Amsterdam, MB 1007 Netherlands
                [ ]Research Center for Insurance Medicine, AMC-UMCG-UWV-VUmc, Amsterdam, Netherlands
                © Lammerts et al. 2016

                Open AccessThis article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

                Funded by: Dutch Institute for Employee Benefit Schemes (Uitvoeringsinstituut Werknemersverzekeringen)
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