I recently met someone at a social function, who on hearing about my connection to occupational health bemoaned that fact that when they’d felt ill at work, they had been directed to their GP by the OH department. They were disgruntled to find that the nurse wasn’t going to examine them and offer them treatment. It may seem that the idea that nurses in white coats staff OH departments is still a prevalent view among the uninitiated, but, this image is slowly but surely being eroded as workplace health moves further up the agenda.
The government’s reforms to encourage people off incapacity benefits is just the latest in a long line of initiatives to emerge; not from the Department of Health but from the Department of Work and Pensions, which has woken up to the economic realities of losing thousands of workers to long-term sickness.
As the special report on page 11 reveals, the term ‘incapacity benefit’ is being dropped in favour of a ‘rehabilitation support allowance’ or, depending on the claimants condition, a ‘disability and sickness’ allowance. It may just be semantics, but OH professionals have been pointing out for years, referring to an individual as incapacitated does not give you a warm feeling that they will be back to work any time soon.
Of course, OH services are not always restricted to locally-based staff. Ensuring that staff travelling and working abroad do so safety and with as much support as possible is the subject of our cover story this month. The article on page 21 outlines a myriad of travel-related issues ranging from in-flight safety to the experiences of long-term expatriates. And, if you need any further information on the subject, we’ve also posted a comprehensive list of travel health resources, which can be accessed at www.personneltoday.com/27900.article.