NHS occupational health practitioners are looking to play a key role in the Government’s Fit for Work service following an agreement between Syngentis, the not-for-profit social enterprise spun out of NHS Plus, and Health Management, the OH provider delivering the service.
Fit for Work pilots were expected to begin by the end of 2014 with a national rollout in spring 2015, although there had yet to be any formal launch of this process as Occupational Health went to press in early December.
Under the partnership agreement, 45 NHS OH teams covering 103 sites will provide face-to-face appointments for the new service.
The announcement was revealed in the latest Syngentis impact report published in November.
In it, Syngentis said: “We believe this [partnership] will add real value as the general population trusts the NHS, and workers are more likely to be receptive to receiving support and help within an NHS setting.”
NHS teams, which are likely to be working alongside other subcontractors, will provide a face-to-face appointment with a trained OH professional within five working days of an individual being referred to the service.
“Syngentis is negotiating the final contract on behalf of NHS units and will provide a quality assurance and coordination role,” it added.
The report revealed that the organisation is expecting to launch a new trading arm with NHS Health at Work network members over the coming year.
This, it has said, will enable it to work with NHS OH teams to “coordinate and submit bids to deliver substantial national and regional commercial contracts for large corporate organisations and government departments”.
“This new service will provide a real opportunity for organisations across the country to source their future occupational health needs from well qualified, experienced and trusted teams of NHS occupational health experts,” said Andrew Gilbey, executive director for Syngentis.
In other updates, Syngentis confirmed that more than 250 teams are now registered with its Mo-HaWK (Management of Health at Work Knowledge) performance and benchmarking tool.
During 2014, it also worked with Greater Wessex health and disability advisers to pilot a service offering OH advice alongside job centre employment advisers.
The 20-week pilot involved 470 claimants and, Syngentis said, 86% of the health and disability advisers thought having access to such OH advice had been useful.
Survey suggests fit for work service could expose malingerers
A poll by employment law consultancy Protecting.co.uk has suggested that the prospect of being referred to the new service is likely to “root out sick leave fraudsters”, although it could also encourage presenteeism or workers being forced back to work before they are completely recovered.
Its survey of 1,562 employees found that 90% said they would go back to work rather than face an independent assessment, while 78% feared a Fit for Work assessment might try to force them back to work before they were fully ready.