There would be “merit” in offering employers incentives in return for them providing approved workplace health programmes for their employees, the chief executive of the NHS has said.
Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, outlined his backing for the idea within his five-year plan for the health service, published in October.
He said: “There would be merit in extending incentives for employers in England who provide effective NICE-recommended workplace health programmes for employees.”
The Government is already offering employers a £500 tax break for implementing return-to-work healthcare interventions as well as imminently launching its new Fit for Work service, formerly Health and Work.
But Stevens added: “Over and above that, during the next Parliament we will seek to test a win-win opportunity of improving access to NHS services for at-risk individuals while saving ‘downstream’ costs at the Department for Work and Pensions, if money can be reinvested across programmes.”
Within the community as a whole, he pledged that the NHS would do more to tackle the public health challenges facing the UK, including: alcohol consumption; diabetes; obesity; poor diet; and smoking.
Stevens also commented that NHS England would work with the Faculty of Occupational Medicine to review “the strengthening of occupational health” as part of making the health of NHS employees a greater priority.
He said: “We will also establish with NHS Employers new incentives to ensure the NHS as an
employer sets a national example in the support it offers its own 1.3 million staff to stay healthy, and serve as ‘health ambassadors’ in their local communities.”
He outlined that there would be an increased focus on helping trusts to support staff in keeping to a healthy weight, highlighting the fact that, while three-quarters of NHS trusts offered staff help with smoking, only one-third did the same when it came to weight and three-quarters did not offer healthy food to staff who work at night.
The NHS in England will, as a result, cut access to unhealthy products on NHS premises, implement food standards and be providing healthy options for night staff, Stevens pledged.
Each trust will be required to measure its employee health and wellbeing and introduce voluntary work-based weight watching and health schemes.
They will also be encouraged to support “active travel” schemes for staff and visitors and to promote initiatives such as the Workplace Wellbeing Charter, the Global Corporate Challenge and the TUC’s Better Health and Work initiative, Stevens said.