In July 2011, the first NHS occupational health providers were accredited under the Safe Effective Quality Occupational Health Service (SEQOHS) standards.
The teams at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Trust and Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospital joined four other commercial providers in receiving awards from Dame Carol Black, national director for work and health, for being among the first to achieve the kitemark developed by the Faculty of Occupational Medicine.
By July, 102 providers had registered for SEQOHS, the first part of the accreditation process, with a further 28 now registered and self-assessed and seven fully accredited, Dr Paul Nicholson, SEQOHS clinical lead at the faculty and associate medical director at Procter & Gamble, told Occupational Health magazine.
The six award winners were:
- Healthwork, Manchester;
- RPS Mansfield, Nottinghamshire;
- OHC Consultancy, Halesowen, West Midlands;
- Working Fit, Dover;
- Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, London; and
- Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospital.
Dr Olivia Carlton, president of the faculty, said: “This is very good news for the health of the working-age population. SEQOHS has been well received by the occupational health community and it has the potential to make a real difference to the quality of services.”
Regarding the success of the NHS services, Professor John Harrison, director of NHS Plus, added: “This shows that we are capable of and committed to providing high-quality excellent occupational health services in the NHS – I would urge all NHS teams to engage in the accreditation process.”
Nicholson has predicted that SEQOHS may evolve into a network where registered services meet on a regular basis to share information and peer review.
“Such networks could share best practice and drive up standards even further in a forum and in ways that have never existed previously. As another opportunity and in an altruistic way or sister service model, accredited services could mentor less developed services,” he added.
But Nicholson also warned that the high level of enthusiasm for the accreditation process posed a potential challenge in terms of its capacity and capability to cope with demand. At the moment, some 50 auditors are either already trained or are being trained.
“The greatest single threat is presented by the enthusiasm and support. Remember that SEQOHS was always intended and consequently designed to accredit all services over a five-year cycle – that is, by the end of 2015. Targets to accredit all services earlier than 2015 must be resisted,” he cautioned.
In a separate development, in June, the occupational health team at Southampton University Hospitals NHS Trust was awarded the NHS Plus award for excellence in improving employee health and wellbeing.
The award, part of the Healthcare People Management Association awards, was in recognition of the work by the team, which was led by Dr Julia Smedley and Jean Piernicki, in developing and implementing “Return2Health”, an integrated case-management approach that led to a dramatic reduction in sickness absence as well as a £3.5 million reduction in agency costs.
The runners-up were the teams from Knowsley Health and Wellbeing and Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust/Leicester City Community Health Service.