Occupational Health Awards 2007: XpertHR Award for Vocational Rehabilitation

Category judge: Judith Howard-Rees RGN OHNC Cert Management MIOSH, director, Gipping Occupational Health, OH specialist

Judith Howard-Rees is an OH nurse practitioner with more than 25 years’ experience in the field, and is director of Gipping Occupational Health. As a founder member of the Commercial Occupational Health Providers Association (COHPA), she believes that now is the time to establish an integrated approach to the management of health in relation to employment. As a member of the Institute of Directors, she was a finalist in the 2005 Regional Business Woman of the Year Award.

Shortlisted teams

Tate and Lyle

About the organisation: Tate & Lyle is a manufacturer of renewable food and industrial ingredients.

The challenge: Musculoskeletal injuries accounted for much absence with variations in treatment in the NHS and long absence rates and recurrences.

What the team did: An OH team from Neylon Occupational Health set up the Active Back Care Management programme. This has led to a reduction in back injuries year-on-year since 2002 of 69%, and of long-term absence by 60%.

Judge’s comment:
“This entry emphasised the principle of prevention and education. Highlighting the benefits of a well-managed vocational rehabilitation programme, it has gone a step further to demonstrate the reduction for the need to use this resource because of early OH intervention within a well-informed workforce.”

Radstock Co-operative Society

About the organisation: Radstock Co-operative Society is a small independent society focused on retail with 300 staff, mostly part time.

The challenge: When a new head of HR arrived in 2006, it became apparent that there were some long-term sickness cases that had not been managed.

What the team did: An OH provider, CHOHS, was contracted to help. Staff suspicions were overcome, leading to return to work, re-deployment or termination of employment instigated by the employee.

Judge’s comment:
“This is an example of employer leadership and use of an independent OH nurse consultant. It emphasises the specialist OH expertise used to create the vital link between NHS services and the employer’s duty of care within the commercial setting, benefiting both the employee and the organisation.”

Derwent Shared Services

About the organisation: Derwent Shared Services provides a range of services for NHS employers in the Derby area.

The challenge: The team recognised a need to help disabled staff return to work and comply with the Disability Discrimination Act.

What the team did: A multidisciplinary team, including occupational health and occupational therapy, developed functional capacity assessment and rehabilitation services, which helped disabled employees return to work.

Judge’s comment:
“This entry demonstrates how occupational health and occupational therapy can work together innovatively and steadfastly to manage particularly challenging cases of disability. It reflects the employer’s willingness to invest in OH resources that can be used to manage long-term, difficult cases without detriment to the whole organisation.”

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