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Early intervention service pilot project

For: Employers and managers Advocates Information seekers

Comcare partnered with several Australian Public Sector agencies to test whether a structured and independent early intervention service provided:

  • early access to treatment support services
  • self-management (where clinically appropriate)
  • enhanced ability, and support, to recover at and return to work.

Project outcomes

The early intervention pilot has concluded and was independently evaluated, the findings and reports are now available.

Comcare has developed two new better practice resources for implementing, monitoring and evaluating effective early intervention programs that are proven to deliver significant improvements to workers’ recovery at and return to work.

The better practice resources draw on available research and findings, including learnings from the early intervention pilot program and recommends organisations to:

  1. Implement a structured early intervention program
  2. Offer early intervention for both work and non-work-related injury and illness
  3. Include a triage service
  4. Collect data on the program ensuring compliance with relevant privacy legislation
  5. Use the data for prevention and monitoring
  6. Conduct stakeholder engagement, promotion and evaluation activities.

The monitoring and evaluation framework provides ideas and practical steps for workplace early intervention programs.

Project overview

What is early intervention?

Early intervention aims to minimise the impact and duration of emerging symptoms of ill health and/or injury or illness. It aims to achieve this through the provision of early and appropriate clinical and self-management treatment and support to employees to treat their symptoms, injury or illness and mitigate the development of a chronic or secondary condition.

What are the benefits of early intervention?

Early intervention is critical to helping employees with an injury or illness recover at and return to work. It has been shown to significantly reduce the impact and duration of emerging symptoms of ill health, injury or illness, and prevent secondary or chronic conditions.

Evidence also suggests that focused early intervention programs ensure that employees feel supported by their workplace and help drive a positive workplace health and safety culture.

Pilot overview

The pilot was open to any employee who sustained an injury or illness at work or developed symptoms that impacted their ability to work, regardless of the cause.

The pilot model operated as follows:

Table 1: The four steps which the pilot model used
Step 1: The employees called the nurse triage service.
Step 2: The nurse clinically assessed the employee’s condition and provided treatment advice, including self-management, first aid or a GP, or an allied health referral where appropriate.
Step 3: The employer received notification of the triage call, along with aggregate data and reporting on the pilot’s progress.
Step 4: The nurse follows up with the injured employee.

Pilot results

The pilot was evaluated by Deloitte. Results demonstrated significant improvements to recovery at and return to work and a positive cost benefit for employers.

Project participants

Project lead


Other organisations involved

  • Several Australian Public Service agencies
  • Injurynet – the early intervention service provider
  • Deloitte – evaluation consultants.

Findings and reports


Why this research is important

This research project is part of our Research Plan Towards 2022 and supports our purpose to foster work participation and recovery.

Finding ways to help injured and ill employees return to work as soon as it is safe to do so, has benefits for both the employee and the employer.

We know good work supports people’s mental and physical health and wellbeing.

We also know that being off work for extended periods can have serious long-term effects including isolation and depression. Experience shows that the longer someone is off work, the less likely they are to return to work.

More information

See other mental health initiatives that Comcare is leading or a part of.

For more information on this research project, contact research@comcare.gov.au.

Training on early intervention

We provide training through our learning management system called Comcare LMS.

To access our training, you first need to create an account in Comcare LMS (see the steps to create an account). Then, select the training course link and login with your email and password.

Digital learning
Mode: Self-paced
Cost: Free
Digital learning
Mode: Self-paced
Cost: Free

For more information about the courses we offer, see Training and learning.

Page last reviewed: 23 March 2021
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GPO Box 9905, Canberra, ACT 2601
1300 366 979 | www.comcare.gov.au

Date printed 24 Sep 2021