NHS occupational health must meet SEQOHS standards

All NHS occupational health services will need to have achieved, or be ready to achieve, Safe Effective Quality Occupational Health Service (SEQOHS) Faculty of Occupational Medicine accreditation by March next year, the Government has announced.

The recommendation has been revealed in a major new blueprint outlining the Department of Health’s (DH) vision for the “realignment” of occupational health services to the NHS in England.

The document, Healthy staff, better care for patients, outlines six core minimum service levels for NHS OH services.

These include: prevention; timely intervention; rehabilitation; health assessments for work; promotion of health and wellbeing; and teaching and training.

But the document has also warned that “some existing services lack the scale necessary to achieve the full range of services and will need to change to meet the minimum specification”.

Meeting the faculty’s SEQOHS accreditation will be another requirement, as will be ensuring that there are clear contracts setting out the services required and the quality and delivery levels expected.

“In the future, procurement of occupational health services is likely to take place across a number of services,” the document has predicted. Therefore, NHS organisations will need to develop organisational models for their OH services that suit local needs.

But any model would, again, need to have a core set of underlying principles, including:

  • A strong and demonstrable focus on a high-quality, clinically led and evidence-based service.
  • An equitable and accessible occupational health service.
  • Impartial, approachable and receptive to both clients and employer.
  • Contribution to improved organisational productivity.
  • Working in partnership with all healthcare services and within the community.
  • Being underpinned by innovation.
  • Offering diversity and depth of specialisation as well as opportunities for training.

Units would be encouraged to pilot the appointment of OH professionals to a number of local public health teams, “where they could take lead responsibility for advising on occupational health matters”, the DH said.

Beyond this, trainee doctors in key specialties should have the opportunity of a clinical attachment to an OH department as part of their training while, ideally, a complementary arrangement for occupational health trainees “would also be helpful”.

Occupational health services would need to have adequate resources to train doctors and nurses to specialist level, it continued, meaning that effective procurement of occupational health professionals “must be planned carefully”.

The academic base for occupational health services needs to be strengthened, trusts should receive regular reporting on the work of OH services, while services need “to take a more proactive leadership role”, the document added.

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