NHS occupational health quality unit to close due to lack of funds

Occupational health as a speciality and professional community needs to “reflect” on why there was not enough uptake or financial support to keep the Health and Work Development Unit going, its clinical director Dr Sian Williams has said.

Williams spoke to Occupational Health magazine after the announcement in July that the unit, a partnership between the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) and the Faculty of Occupational Medicine, will be closing “in the near future”.

She emphasised that the unit will leave a considerable legacy, not least a series of clinical guidelines relevant to health and work, greater implementation of National Institute of Health and Care Excellence public health workplace guidance, and improvements in occupational health clinical care through its programme of national clinical audits.

She expressed disappointment there had not been the uptake or interest from the OH community that had been anticipated.

While one-third of NHS trusts that had participated in the audits while they were free had managed to find the money to continue to do so when it shifted to a subscription-based model, “the uptake from the non-NHS sector has been very disappointing”, she said.

Williams also hoped the moves by the Faculty of Occupational Medicine and Society of Occupational Medicine to create a single body for occupational health would lead to quality improvement being given “a major priority”, irrespective of what final organisation emerges from the process.

The RCP stressed there would be no redundancies as a result of the closure and that organisations taking part in the National Quality Improvement Programme will receive a full refund and have access to the web tool for data entry and reporting. Reports for any organisations submitting data by 31 July would still be produced, it added.

Faculty president Dr Richard Heron said he had been “saddened” to hear of the closure but emphasised that “if the new single organisation becomes a reality, I hope that it will be able to develop a joined-up approach to addressing quality improvement”.

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