The government’s new health, work and wellbeing strategy is welcome, but will founder unless more qualified OH nurses are trained, delegates were told at last month’s annual conference of the RCN Society of Occupational Health Nursing in Harrogate.
“It will have a very positive effect in a nutshell,” said Judy Cook, head of OH services at British Airways. “To me, what stands out is the accent on promoting public health in the workplace. There is joined-up thinking at the moment.”
Representatives of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) agreed. “There’s never been a better time for OH. It’s very high on the government’s agenda; it’s very high on the HSE agenda,” said Dr Andrew Curran, head of the Health Sciences Group of the Health and Safety Laboratory.
But the strategy could fail if insufficient numbers of OH nurses are trained, warned Carol Bannister, adviser in OH at the RCN. “I wonder if the government has ever heard us say there aren’t enough OH providers,” she said.
Bannister complained that the RCN had not been consulted by the government on the role of OH technicians.
“I’ve no problem with assistants or technicians where appropriately supervised by qualified colleagues,” she said. “Technicians will help a little bit but won’t solve the problem.”
Sayeed Khan, commissioner at the Health and Safety Commission, said that the private sector would have to foot part of the bill for OH training.