The government has finally announced the appointment of the first ever national director for health and work.
Dame Carol Black – professor of rheumatology at the Royal Free and University College Medical School and former president of the Royal College of Physicians – will spearhead initiatives promoting and improving health at work, ensuring that people with health conditions and disabilities can enter, return to and continue in work.
Black, who said it would be “a huge challenge to engage the range of public and private organisations necessary to effect change”, has had a long medical career, including consultant posts at several hospitals and membership of several industry associations.
The role, which was originally due to be filled earlier this year, is a key part of the Health, Work and Wellbeing Strategy, launched last year by the Department of Health, the Department for Work and Pensions and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
Sayeed Khan, chief medical adviser at the manufacturers’ organisation EEF, said it was important that a medic had been chosen to fill the role.
“[Black] has a fantastic network of healthcare professionals,” he told Personnel Today. “There has to be a change of culture in the NHS to make them realise how important getting people back to work is for their health. This hasn’t been on their radar.”
He also called on industry groups such as the CBI to appoint their own occupational health advisers.
“There are practical things employers could be doing, but they’re just not aware of them. I have a monopoly on doing this at the moment,” he said.
HSE figures show that 40 million working days are lost every year to occupational ill health and injury. The HSE also estimates that only 15% of organisations provide good occupational health services to staff.
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