The deal, which will be led by Imperial College’s Health at Work NHS Plus unit, will see 31 NHS Plus members working together to meet the OH needs of the helpline, which operates from 37 sites within nine English regions and handles more than 28.5 million calls from the public each year.
NHS Plus chief executive Kit Harling described the contract as a “major milestone” in the development of NHS Plus. He told Occupational Health he hoped it would be the first of many such national contracts.
There were about 400-500 individual employers working under the umbrella of the NHS, which all made their own OH arrangements, meaning there was clear potential for the expansion of this kind of activity, as well as continuing to reach out to provide services to businesses outside the NHS.
“We are already talking to other national structures within the NHS to see if we can help them, although things are at a very early stage at the moment,” he said.
“NHS Plus will be providing the full range of services, including strategic advice to address the health needs of its workforce and activities such as pre-employment assessment, management referrals, counselling and specific interventions to help people,” Harling added.
The key to the contract was to ensure that staff were treated to a consistent, national standard – something that NHS Plus, given its physical network, was well placed to provide, he argued.
Andrew Kelly, national head of HR policy for NHS Direct, said: “Taking care of our people is mission critical – we simply can’t provide the highest level of patient care without them.
“Awarding the contract to NHS Plus ensures they will receive the highest quality occupational health services from a name we can trust,” he added.