The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has proposed a radical overhaul of its professional forums, including incorporating the occupational health forum within a much wider public health forum.
The plan would see the RCN severely reduce the number of professional forums from 70 to about 42. This would mean the occupational health forum would become part of a public health forum that also includes travel health, health visitors and public health and sexual health nurses.
The plan is being consulted on, but only until 1 September, with forum chairs due to discuss the final proposals at the end of September.
Stacey Hunter and Robert Sowney, chair respectively of the RCN Forum Governance Group and Governance Support Committee, admitted the rationalisation had not been a straightforward process.
In a letter to members they said: “This task was never going to be easy but we have been incredibly grateful to the forum chairs for the constructive way they have worked with us.
“We tested our proposal with forum chairs at their meeting in July and they gave us their general support for the way forward we are proposing.”
But some OH nurses have reacted to the news with disquiet, arguing that, much as with the Nursing & Midwifery Council’s new register, the move could make it harder for OH to get its views heard within the profession.
One OH nurse told Occupational Health: “It could dilute OH nursing, besides which there is a real problem in that the categories are so very different.
“OH is a small profession compared with health visitors, so when it comes to roles being advertised will there be far more applications from health visitors who have no idea what OH is about?”
But others have argued that the problem is simply that the RCN covers too many different nursing disciplines, making it impossible to keep so many different professional forums running.