The agenda for Anne Robinson’s occupational health team has been set by the company’s dedication to its traditional front-line workers – the engineers who maintain and install equipment for its millions of clients.
Robinson formulated an occupational health scheme that was focused primarily on people performing this sometimes physically demanding role.
She secured funding for her scheme by laying the options open: British Gas could wait for work-related health problems to occur and then pay; it could let sick workers take costly early retirement; or it could provide a support network for its precious front-line workers to prevent work-related health problems becoming serious.
Since her occupational health programme began, British Gas has had fewer incidences of sickness through work-related problems. And Robinson’s seven-strong team is not just dedicated to preserving the health of engineers, with an almost equally important task of supporting its many call centre staff.
The situation required a flexible occupational health system, which worked on the basis of diagnosis rather than treatment. Robinson consulted with both unions and senior managers to draw up her occupational health system, which works in a similar way to the triage system used in Accident and Emergency wards.
At the hub of the system is the health line nurse, who deals with about five calls per day from employees concerned about their health. The nurse then assesses the individual using the telephone and passes the information on to occupational health advisers. Each case is then individually monitored as time progresses and treatment is given by external providers.
This set-up allows the department to act on behalf of patients and the company by rooting out anyone trying to play the system and falsely claim sick leave and supporting those who genuinely are ill.
The department liases with HR to deal with disciplinary issues as well as helping employees who have been off sick get back into work.
In addition to fewer incidents of absenteeism the company has saved money by preventing sick workers taking the costly option of early retirement.
Sandwell Healthcare NHS Trust
Sperrin Lakeland Health and Social Care Trust