Government looks to OH provision within NHS as retention strategy
Health Secretary Alan Milburn has called for an OH service for the NHS,to give its hard-pressed staff a better quality of working life.
Speaking at the London School of Economics Health Lecture last month, Milburn said, "Healthcare is one of the biggest knowledge-based sectors of the economy and we cannot afford to lose highly skilled staff.
"I am examining how we can improve occupational health care services for our own employees whether in the primary, community or secondary care sectors."
Milburn also called for more NHS trust OH departments to provide services to small- and medium-sized employers - "an NHS Plus, if you like", he said. "Private employers will be able to free up the £1bn-plus they currently spend on staff private health insurance, for more effective workforce health interventions of the sort that NHS Plus might provide."
TUC senior policy officer Owen Tudor said, "The Secretary of State has held up a prospect of radical transformation of the way the NHS deals with occupational health."
"I have not heard health ministers talking in this way before and if it is an example of joined-up government working together then it is tremendously exciting."
RCN OH adviser Carol Bannister pointed out that NHS OH departments have been under pressure to gain outside contracts in order to justify their existence. This can mean OH staff are over-stretched and employees have a diluted service, she said.
The Health and Safety Commission will publish proposals this month on modernising occupational health to make it better suited to the needs of small- and medium-sized businesses.