Occupational health can play a key role in NHS cultural change

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Occupational health can play a key role in contributing to the cultural change required in the NHS in the wake of the Mid Staffordshire healthcare scandal, the two bodies that have replaced NHS Plus have argued.

In a submission to a consultation by the NHS Confederation in the wake of the Francis report into the Mid Staffordshire affair, the NHS Health at Work Network and ­Syngentis have argued that the NHS must prioritise staff health and wellbeing.

NHS Plus was replaced at the end of March by the NHS Health at Work Network, which represents OH teams providing health and wellbeing services to NHS staff, and Syngentis, a not-for-profit health and work community interest company.

In their response, the two bodies have argued: “Staff who feel nurtured, valued and are healthy are more likely to buy into NHS core values and be motivated and committed to improving patient care.

“The Francis report is calling for cultural change. OH plays a key part in contributing to cultural change. There is good evidence that access to good occupational health support improves staff engagement and therefore has a direct impact on patient care.”

NHS staff often work in difficult and complex conditions that are full of risk.

“In Mid Staffordshire, early warning systems were immature and ineffective. OH is in a unique position as part of the interface between staff and managers. OH can therefore be part of the ‘early warning system’ and alert managers when staff are experiencing problems and if they believe a blame and bullying culture pervades,” they added.

OH services, they said, “should not be seen as an ‘add-on service’ but as an integral part of that radical change. They should play a pivotal strategic role in addressing the overall health and wellbeing of staff.”

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