Ageing workforce puts occupational health under strain


Commercial occupational health nurses make up almost a third of active OH nurses practising in the UK, but ever-rising demand and an ageing workforce, with most OH nurses now aged over 40, is putting OH across the board under increasing pressure.

Research by the Commercial Occupational Health Providers Association (Cohpa), obtained by Occupational Health, has for the first time given a clear snapshot of the commercial profession, and identified some of the key challenges it faces.

The study of 177 commercial OH providers was carried out earlier this year by Cohpa as part of a wider mapping of the OH workforce by the Department of Health.

It is thought the full report will be published early in the New Year, possibly to coincide with Dame Carol Black’s review of the health of the working population.

It found that more than half of the physicians estimated to be working in the UK were now working for commercial OH providers (COHPs). For nurses, the figure was 30%.

Eight out of 10 COHPs used subcontracting as a means of servicing contracts, with those polled providing services to about 10 million staff. Of these, around two-thirds were in the private sector, 31% in the public sector, and the remaining 4% in the voluntary sector.

The poll revealed 81% of OH physicians, 64% of OHNs and 74% of OH staff are now aged over 40. Yet at the same time, demand is rising sharply, with nearly nine out of 10 COHPs saying they had witnessed an increase in the past five years.

Concerns, it added, were growing that “workforce training policies need to be developed which will enable this anticipated increased demand to be serviced”.

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