How should occupational health nurses be addressing the key health
inequalities in the wrokplace?
This thorny problem was the subject of the keynote speech given by Carol
Bannister, national adviser in occupational health at the Royal College of
Bannister’s address pulled no punches. "We hoped there would be a
minister here, but they were frightened away," was her opening remark.
On the subject of the public health agenda, however, there was some
back-handed praise for the current ministerial agenda. "In the past four
years, whatever our politics are, occupational health as an issue has been
raised high on the government agenda. I’m amazed at the amount of information
and challenge to occupational health nurses this government has provoked,"
Bannister conducted a survey of the key government policy documents and
their effects on the different parts of the UK. She pointed out that members of
the profession were working to improve government policies to take account of
occupational health issues but that it was hard to make change happen without
massive lobbying support from the profession.
"We are pressing hard for all OH services to be audited and to look
seriously at clinical governance," she said. "There are national
standards on occupational health and you need to be clued up on them. If you
are not meeting NICE standards then you are falling short of best practice and
could be sued, or audited," she warned.
Bannister’s message was that nurses need to review their service to see if
it is meeting the new policy agenda. That means developing a needs-assessment
approach to practice. "The whole of nursing is moving to a
competence-based model, and you may be seeing your re-registration linked to
it," she said.