New guidelines that could radically change how NHS occupational health services operate, their oversight and even their branding are due to be unveiled in March 2011.
The Task and Finish Group, which was set up by the Government to implement the recommendations of Dr Stephen Boorman's NHS Health and Wellbeing 2009 report on staff health in the NHS, is set to recommend that:
- NHS OH services are to be rebranded as "NHS occupational health and wellbeing centres";
- quarterly key performance indicators for OH services are introduced;
- pilots are established whereby NHS regional OH professionals are based in local authority departments of public health.
- all NHS OH services are to be required to have achieved the Faculty of Occupational Medicine's Safe Effective Quality Occupational Health Service (SEQOHS) accreditation by March 2012, or to be able to clearly show they are ready to get it; and
- a "Wellbeing Improvement Framework" be created to monitor the aim of making the £555 million productivity savings identified in the Boorman report.
The overhaul was unveiled at a conference in January, where new NHS Plus director John Harrison said that OH services faced a challenging future, particularly around the uncertainty about how services will be commissioned in future.
In the wake of the Government's public health White Paper Healthy Lives, Healthy People, published in December 2010, local authority public health managers will be taking at least some responsibility for the commissioning of OH services currently based in the NHS, he pointed out.
Harrison stressed that OH services needed to improve their efficiency and quality in response to these changes. There was no "one-size-fits-all solution" for improving the quality of NHS OH services, he said, but the regional area collaborative service model being developed by some NHS providers might be adopted more widely.
"It's very important that we deliver on the quality agenda," said Harrison. "I suspect that in some situations it's not going to be possible to deliver that agenda with the current configuration of services," he added.