Occupational health will over time change from being a service based on the needs of employers to something more socially-focused, the head of NHS Plus has forecast.
The prediction was made by NHS Plus director Kit Harling at the service’s inaugural Health at Work in the NHS conference in January.
Harling said the change, which he forecast could take place over as short a period as the next 18 months, could have profound implications for how services were delivered.
“There will be huge issues around commissioning and who will be providing, all at a time when the NHS is going through huge changes,” he said.
“There will be, as in the rest of healthcare, less of a clear distinction between public and private providers. We have seen that in the rest of the NHS and it is likely to come to an OH department quite soon.
“There is going to be considerable change in the context of our practice over the coming months,” Harling added.
He said NHS OH departments needed to make sure they were influencing change, rather than being dragged along behind it: “Because change – I have no doubt – there will be.”
His forecasts came ahead of the review of workplace health by the national director for health and work Dame Carol Black.
That review, which had been predicted to be published in January, is now not expected to see the light of day until March.