‘National Health at Work Service’ proposed by occupational health specialists

Radical and innovative ideas were put forward this week including a national health at work service and a Royal College of Occupational Health at a meeting of OH nurses and others involved in workplace health.

The ideas were discussed at a meeting at the Royal College of Nursing on Monday this week (19 November 2007), which was called to hammer out ideas for a national occupational health strategy in response to OH Tsar Dame Carol Black’s call for evidence, which was launched in October 2007.

Black told participants, “OH doesn’t have the importance or value needed to keep people in work and healthy and enable them to get back to work very quickly.”

Occupational health nurses are taking part in high-level consultations about how OH will be delivered in the future which will feed into the Black review. On Monday this week (19 November 2007) OH nurse leaders Cynthia Atwell, Christina Butterworth and Sharon Horan led a ‘stakeholder meeting’ which focused on five key issues:

  • Health protection
  • Access to OH and standards across the UK
  • Return to work programmes and common health complaints
  • Supporting networks in the wider NHS
  • Health promotion.

Horan, who is professional nurse development adviser at the Royal College of Nursing, is also a member of one of three sub-groups of the National Stakeholder Council for the government’s health, work and wellbeing strategy launched in October 2005. The group focuses on securing timely access to support and treatment and is putting forward radical ideas including a new National Health at Work Service. Features of such a service would be:

  • The core purpose of ensuring early access to OH support for workers
  • Accessible to employees at work or on sick leave
  • Would include both work-related and non work-related problems.

Other innovative ideas were proposed at a consultation on the Black review this week including:

  • A Royal College of Workplace Health
  • A ‘health passport’ for everyone of working age

See the January 2008 issue of Occupational Health for more on the future role of OH nurses.

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