The great and the good of the healthcare world may by and large have welcomed Dame Carol Black’s review on the health of the working-age population, but individual occupational health nurses are concerned that it could lead to a dilution of their role.
Responding to the Black Report, OH nurses on the Jiscmail online forum expressed concern about her emphasis on the role of others, such as GPs and health and safety professionals, within her vision for the future of workplace health.
“GP’s signing ‘fit notes’ saying ‘light duties’ is going to drive employers mad,” said one comment. “Maybe it is time OH moved on, but I can’t help feeling we have become a pawn in the government’s agenda and, because we are a small part of the nursing profession, we will be diluted into some other role/speciality, and there’s little we are going to be able to do about it.”
Another echoed their concern: “In my view, this heralds the end of occupational health as a speciality and a need,” they said. “If half a day’s training on the rehabilitative value of work for patients is all that is needed for a GP to be qualified in OH to tick the boxes on the fit note advising employers of fitness to return to work, then why did I spend three years studying for a BSc degree to do the same?”
Others were worried whether employers would assume they had no more need for specialist OH services if all they needed to do was turn to a GP or Fit for Work team.