Speculation is growing that workplace health tsar professor Dame Carol Black (pictured right) will make some radical suggestions when her review of the working health of the nation is published.
A National Health at Work service, a Royal College of Workplace or Occupational Health, and ‘health passports’ for everyone of working age are all issues believed to have been under serious discussion within Whitehall.
Black, national director for health and work, is expected to publish her review this month along with health minister Lord McKenzie’s review of vocational rehabilitation.
A number of well-placed observers have told Occupational Health that the idea of a National Health at Work Service is one that has been discussed particularly closely, although how such a service would work in practice remains sketchy.
According to one OH professional involved in the consultation: “It is looking exceedingly likely, but could take perhaps five or 10 years before it becomes a reality.” Another agreed: “It is being discussed as an option. It is quite a done deal.”
The idea of such a service is being examined by a sub-group of the Health, Work and Wellbeing strategy’s National Stakeholder Council.
Its core purpose, it is thought, would be to ensure early access to OH support for workers, to be accessible to employees at work or on sick leave, and to encompass both work-related and non work-related problems.
These ideas and more were discussed at a meeting at the Royal College of Nursing in November, which was called to hammer out proposals for a national occupational health strategy in response to Black’s call for evidence.
Black, who attended the meeting, told participants: “OH doesn’t have the importance or value needed to keep people in work and healthy and enable them to get back to work very quickly.”
A ‘stakeholder meeting’ featuring mostly OH nurses also took place during November, which focused on five key issues: health protection, access to OH and standards across the UK, return-to-work programmes and common health complaints, supporting networks in the wider NHS, and health promotion.
By Noel O’Reilly and Nic Paton