Constructing Better Health OH scheme to close, as Covid-19 takes its toll

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The Constructing Better Health (CBH) occupational health scheme for the construction sector is being shut down, with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic being partly to blame, its provider B&CE has confirmed.

The move follows a decision last year by B&CE, a not-for-profit organisation, to pause development of a replacement system for CBH and, now, to exit the occupational health market completely.

The decision had been made because of delays and rising costs, the increasing complexity of delivering the scheme, the fact it was running at a loss and would have required a heavy investment to upgrade, and long-term decline in demand, especially given the “transformed economic environment” post Covid-19, it said.

B&CE chief executive Patrick Heath-Lay said: “B&CE supported the acquisition of CBH on behalf of the industry, planning to replace it with a new integrated system that fulfilled the needs of the construction and occupational health industries.

“As the build progressed, it became increasingly complex and costly to deliver and is not commercially viable at this time. We have now made the difficult decision to exit the occupational health market, by closing CBH and ending the build of a replacement system,” he added.

Back in 2016, a report on CBH by B&CE had concluded there was long-term lack of understanding of occupational health and the role of OH providers within the construction industry.

This, in turn, had led to “inconsistencies and a lack of co-ordination in the approach to occupational health management”, with inefficiencies such as repeat medicals and time and administration constraints hampering delivery.

The fact so many construction firms are often small, subcontracted or self-employed has also limited the ability of OH providers to make inroads into the industry, despite it being one where health, safety and wellbeing (especially men’s health) remain important issues.

For example, a recent survey by the trade body The Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) concluded that one in four construction workers (26%) had contemplated suicide last year.

Even before the uncertainty brought about by the coronavirus pandemic, 97% of individuals working in construction said they had felt stressed at least once in 2019, commonly driven by worries about job security, long working hours, time away from family, and lack of support from HR teams.

These findings, outlined in the CIOB’s Understanding mental health in the built environment report, showed there was a “silent crisis” in construction, said CIOB president Professor Charles Egbu.

More than half (56%) of those polled for the report said their organisation did not have any mental health policies in place.

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