Dame Carol Black, national director of work and health, is developing a national government strategy on mental health at work to be launched by March 2009.
Black told delegates that figures on the prevalence of mental health problems among employees were “going in the wrong direction”. “Quite a lot of employers have no policy on managing mental ill health,” she said. “There are many kinds of initiatives and programmes in place – we’ve got very little idea if they’re effective,” she added.
However, she said that employers were embracing the government’s Health Work Wellbeing strategy. “It might be getting to a tipping point,” she said, citing figures from Business in the Community showing increased public reporting of health and wellbeing by companies in the FTSE 100.
Black said that occupational health would need to embrace a wide range of practitioners to achieve the goal of her review of working-age people to widen access to health services at work.
Following a meeting she had with the Faculty of Occupational Medicine, OH doctors had produced a paper with recommendations on multi-disciplinary working, particularly in relation to the fit-for-work teams proposed in Black’s report.
“We need to have a more enlightened vision of the role of OH management,” she said. “We’re now going to try and bring it all together. The challenge is how we can make sure that OH is something that could be practised together.
“There is no pathway for someone with a work-related problem and we have a lot of unco-ordinated activity and delays,” she added.
She told delegates that currently 1,500 GPs are trialling a version of the ‘fit note’ which she has proposed as a replacement of the Med 3 sickness certificate, and also that a pilot of an electronic fit note had been completed in Wales and was being assessed.