The Department of Health (DoH) has proposed giving the general public access to ‘health MOTs’ and allowing retailers to employ nurses, doctors and other healthcare professionals.
The ideas, all outlined in the White Paper, Our Health, Our Care, Our Say: A new direction in community services, intend to shift the focus of healthcare as far as possible from a hospital setting to one within the community or primary care.
Among OH professionals, most interest and debate is expected to be centred on the NHS ‘life checks’, due to come in from 2007, and the impact they may have on workplace-related health initiatives.
The DoH said the checks, which are still to be piloted, will assess lifestyle risks and look at “the right steps to take and provide referrals to specialists if needed”. Each will be run on a two-stage basis, with patients first filling in a paper-based or online self-assessment.
If this indicates they are at significant risk of conditions such as diabetes, cancer or heart disease, then they are given access to a health trainer, who could advise on diet and exercise. More complex problems would be referred to a GP or nurse.
Health service unions have also expressed disquiet at plans to allow supermarkets and others to hire nurses and doctors through a “check-up at the checkout scheme”.
Unison, for one, has warned against private sector involvement in any such scheme.
Go to www.dh.gov.uk
See next month’s issue of Occupational Health for the implications of government plans to overhaul incapacity benefit