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Last Updated: Wednesday, 22 October, 2003, 14:17 GMT 15:17 UK
NHS jobs for 'sickness capital'
Disabled workers generic
Managers of the trust say there are many job vacancies
A south Wales valleys town where one in five people are on the sick is leading the way with a scheme to get people with health problems jobs within the NHS.

More than 10,000 people claim incapacity benefit in Merthyr Tydfil - which has been dubbed the 'sickness capital of Britain'.

North Glamorgan Health Trust and the disability employment company Remploy have engineered a project to get claimants back to work.

Under the scheme people will be encouraged to choose jobs in the trust over benefits.

John Leonard,
John Leonard is one of the scheme's first recruits

"Merthyr has got the unpopular tag of being the sickest place in Britain with 10,000 people claiming incapacity benefit," said Steve James from the North Glamorgan NHS Trust.

"What we are trying to do with our recruitment and retention initiative is to recruit people into the NHS trust who are claiming incapacity benefit and to keep people who may be about to leave to claim incapacity benefit."

The trust runs four hospitals, five health centres and 17 community clinics in Merthyr, Cynon and upper Rhymney valleys.

Managers said there are many job vacancies while there are few job seekers in the area.

John Leonard, from Aberfan, claimed incapacity for back problems after he was made redundant in May.


On Wednesday he started a six month contract as a clerical officer at Prince Charles Hospital.

"I was entitled to go on to incapacity benefit but I was still looking forward to going to work.

"I have always wanted to work, I didn't want to stay on benefit, I wanted to be employed.

"I have still got quiet a few years left to give I think I have got something to give to an employer."

The scheme has been launched by Welsh Health Minister Jane Hutt at Prince Charles Hospital.

It is hoped the project can be used as a blueprint for the NHS through Wales and for other employers.

There are currently 950 people actively seeking work in Merthyr.

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