Focusing on OH’s role with the health service

 Keeping abreast of public health policy is a full-time job, but you cannot afford to ignore it if you work in OH.

A flurry of recent initiatives to improve public health and get incapacitated employees back into work show that public policy makers have finally realised that OH services are at the heart of improving the health of the population and boosting performance in the workplace. The Choosing Health and Pathways to Work initiatives are the two most prominent examples.

With the Labour government committed to realising its aims largely through the NHS, the health service is going to be central to delivering OH services to employees and employers for many years to come, leaving aside for the moment the outcome of the general election expected in May.

But how well-equipped is the NHS to rise to this challenge? The first thing the service has to do is get its own house in order. Throughout the service, in both primary and secondary care, occupational stress is endemic and the list of other health risks to staff appears endless. In this special issue, we look at how the NHS is rising to the challenge both of supporting other employers and improving the health of its own staff.
For the OH practitioner, working in the NHS offers special challenges and rewards. Our feature (see p16) gets feedback from those working in the service on the pros and cons. Money compares better than it used to, and training and other opportunities are key benefits.

General practice – still at the front-line of the health service – has come under the spotlight, not least following the report on Harold Shipman. In Sandwell (see p19), an initiative to raise awareness of OH and health and safety among practices, has uncovered some useful lessons for others. Meanwhile, our feature on NHS Plus asks how credible are initiatives to use primary care to deliver OH services to other employers (see p12).

This issue of OH Extra will put you in the picture about where the NHS is today and what is on the horizon – a theme that will have an impact you whether you work in the health service or outside it.


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