Occupational health services will be at the heart of the debate over the future direction of workplace health in this country, the government has said.
Health and safety minister Lord Philip Hunt told Occupational Health that the profession was central to the government’s plans for improving the way in which employers and staff manage workplace health and ill health.
His call came in the wake of the Department for Work and Pensions’ strategy document Work and Well-being – Caring for our Future, about the health of the UK’s working-age population, published in October.
Extending and improving access to occupational health services is seen by the government as a key part of this.
“We want to have a really good dialogue about what it is the profession can do,” said Lord Hunt. “Let’s get OH out of the hut down the end of the corridor and into the mainstream,” he added.
Alongside the strategy, the government has said it plans to appoint an occupational health ‘tsar’ to implement its plans. But delegates at the Royal College of Nursing’s Society of Occupational Health Nursing Conference in November were concerned that the profession did not have the capacity to cope with a big increase in demand, and there might be a reduction in quality as a result.
Hunt stressed that improving workplace health was something that he was “determined not to let slip”. But he conceded there was a steep hill to climb in persuading small- and medium-sized companies in particular of the need to invest in workplace health.
He also said there was a “daunting” variation between those with good OH support, and those without.
Go to www.dwp.gov.uk