The Society of Occupational Medicine (SOM) and the Faculty of Occupational Medicine (FOM) have agreed in principle to merge into a single entity within the next two years.
In a letter sent out to members of both organisations in January, president of the FOM Dr Olivia Carlton and president of the SOM Dr Richard Heron agreed that there was “an urgent and compelling case for a strong voice to represent the changing health needs of the working-age population in a globalised society”.
The “ultimate vision” was to create a new body “for all health professionals who are working to address the health needs in respect of work and the general public”.
This body would have a collegiate framework and aim to represent all the multidisciplinary elements of occupational health.
It would also work to “deliver a robust framework for revalidation”, as well as promote best practice and stimulate research, education and training.
“We recognise this is an emotive issue for some members and wish to reassure them that we will only progress this if the mutual benefits [for both organisations] exceed the challenge of going through the process,” said Heron and Carlton.
They added that the idea of a unified, single body was discussed by both organisations during recent strategic away days.
“Occupational medicine is an understated specialty, so it is vital we pool our resources, avoid duplication of effort and effectively articulate the benefits we bring so that they are clearly heard and understood,” they wrote.
To this end, a joint FOM/SOM taskforce has now been set up to look at the viability of a merger in more detail.
This will examine the scope, resources and “key stakeholder map” before a further consultation is carried out. Any final decision would need to be voted on by the memberships of both organisations.
Heron said that the motivation behind the move was to create an organisation that could represent and speak for the profession, OH, occupational therapists, ergonomists, occupational psychologists and more.
He said: “There is a multidisciplinary working environment these days, and unless we all work together we will not maximise the potential that can come from fitter people with good jobs who are contributing to their own health and the nation’s wealth.
“The faculty and the society have worked closely together with government departments for some time now. We have set a firm timeframe to work together in the formation of a single organisation that can provide governance and leadership for the whole of occupational health.”