Letters/ books

Financial restraints hinder nurses’ chances

I read with interest Cynthia Attwell’s comments (Letters, August OH) regarding OH nurse education and am relieved that she voiced such thoughts.

I am a specialist practitioner and am concerned about the limited access practitioners have in gaining occupational health qualifications. I was fortunate that I was funded to gain this qualification but many companies are unable to finance degree programmes.

I work for a national occupational health provider and, along with my regional manager, we are facing a similar problem with some specialist practitioners who do not wish to undertake basic health surveillance work.

We have a mixed team of practitioners and many experienced practitioners are hampered from career moves because of the lack of qualifications. We need to find a middle ground where individuals who wish to enter occupational health can do so and also receive a qualification.

We should be looking at some core competency skills that individuals can work towards that are similar to NVQs.

Many of our customers want a dual approach to occupational health, they want a practitioner who can challenge the sicknote culture and who will assist in managing attendance and carry out the health surveillance.

Financial restraints at small-medium sized business mean they cannot afford to access two practitioners, they want and need somebody to make a decision.

Sarah Davison, company health manager,

Ed comments: We’ve had a number of letters regarding our coverage of training and career development over the past few issues and will publish a selection next month. We will be producing a special issue on professional development at the end of this month.

Six-point strategy to beating absenteeism

Fit for Work: the complete guide to managing sickness absence and rehabilitation

Authors: Judith Hogwarth BA, MA. Dr Sayeed Khan MB BS, BMedSci. MRCGP, FFOM, MIOSH, DM

Published: April 2004 by EEF Cost 90 for non members and 60 for EEF members

ISBN: 1 903461 375


The Engineering Employment Federation’s (EEF) recent publication Fit for Work is a well-structured, essential guide for those involved in managing sickness absence and rehabilitation in the workplace. All management aspects of sickness are covered, particularly long- and short-term absences.

The authors, Judith Hogwarth, a solicitor in the EEF legal section and Dr Sayeed Khan, accredited occupational health physician and EEF chief medical advisor, have addressed an area that is often considered complex and difficult to manage. It is well written and to the point.

The summary of contents defines the areas that need to be considered by managers, in an easy-to-follow, step-by-step approach. The Fit for Work strategy consists of six steps and a legal overview. The guide takes into consideration the changes to the Disability Discrimination Act due in October 2004.

Step 1: clearly define roles in the company

Step 2: identify priorities for action

Step 3: involve and inform the workforce

Step 4: establish ready access to occupational health support

Step 5: focus on rehabilitation

Step 6: tackle frequent short-term absence

It includes training requirements and what assistance the EEF can give members. There is a case study that demonstrates managing absence in a structured way, which shows an EEF member company reducing its absence level by 9 per cent to less than 2 per cent in less than a year.

The guide defines the roles of occupational health support and the importance on rehabilitation. What I like about this publication is that it defines the perimeter of occupational health support so that managers can have an understanding of a role that is sometimes misunderstood.

The book is expensive but I would recommend it for those assisting in producing attendance management policies and procedures as much of the ground work has been done for you. Even for those who have written such policies and procedures it is a useful tool to read before updating your existing ones.

Review by Claire Hadlow

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