A recent conference of OH professionals in the NHS was dominated by concerns that the NHS cash crisis would lead to cuts in OH services.
Julian Topping, head of workplace health at NHS Employers, cut his planned presentation short to open an impromptu debate on the threat to OH services posed by the £800m annual deficit, and expectations of 7,000 job cuts.
Topping told delegates at the third annual conference of the Association of NHS Occupational Health Nurses, held on 27 April, that he had received calls from colleagues who had been given the task of scoping out the cost savings of cutting OH services. He had also received unofficial reports of trusts cutting back to a core service and reviewing OH services with a view to outsourcing them to external contractors.
Conference chairperson, Mary Brassington, senior nurse manager at Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust, reinforced the message.
"A lot of us are being asked for a financial analysis of our service to see where we can make savings," Brassington said.
Topping promised that NHS Employers was acting to explain to managers the cost benefits of a qualified OH team. He said that the organisation would send evidence to line managers of the evidence of the OH contribution to the bottom line in May.
One of the threats to NHS OH services was outsourcing companies offering to provide a cheaper alternative. Topping described outsourcing company, Capita, as being "... like a shark fin in the water circling around the trusts, saying: 'We can provide an OH service for less money'."