Top 40 leading lights

The 40 most influential people in occupational health

Every month, Occupational Health covers the developments in workplace health which will determine how services will be delivered in future, and by whom. But who are the individuals setting the agenda? In all walks of life, what really counts is people – the individuals driving change. So Occupational Health has picked out 40 ‘leading lights’ in workplace health.

Our list comes with a disclaimer: we don’t claim it is the result of extensive field work and a scientific methodology. And we have deliberately looked beyond the OH nursing profession to suggest who is really going to call the shots on how employee health will be tackled in future.

The aim in producing the leading lights list is to get people thinking and talking about who is going to shape the future for OH services, and how and why they will influence the agenda. If you have strong views, we urge you to contact us and they will be aired in the journal. In a year’s time, we will update the 40 leading lights list – we want you to tell us who you think is most influential in the field.

Although the list is intended to be light-hearted, we hope it will provoke debate on who and what will be driving the trends in occupational health in the next five years and beyond. How much impact will government initiatives such as the Work, Health and Wellbeing strategy and the reform of incapacity benefit have on access to OH? And with the shortage of OH specialists, what other practitioner groups are going to step in to extend services to the more than nine in 10 employees who currently have no access at all to occupational health?

Will the new Specialist Community Public Health Nurse (SCPHN) title and the listing of OH nurses with other public health nurses dilute the education and practice of OH nurses? Will the move to cut costs lead to more outsourced OH services and a growth in the proportion of OH delivered by independent providers?

We have taken all these developments into account in coming up with our leading lights list. We aimed to identify people with influence on:

  • public policy making

  • who will deliver OH of services (for example, through internal services in larger organisations, via the NHS, or through outsourcing

  • practice, including thought leadership, the development of an OH evidence base, influence on practice and standards

  • communicating workplace health issues, (eg in the media,through conferences, through government agencies or membership associations)

  • funding for services, including training

  • regulation and how it is interpreted

  • the institutions, such as government departments and agencies, or professional bodies that shape OH.

Here you will find Occupational Health’s selection of the 40 leading lights in workplace health.

1 Carol Black
Director for health and work

The government’s national director for health and work (or occupational health ‘tsar’), Professor Dame Carol Black is the public face of the government’s ambitious occupational health agenda, including the politically sensitive area of getting incapacity benefit claimants back to work. President of the Royal College of Physicians, Black is a medico-political heavyweight who, despite her lack of OH background, has already shown herself willing to listen to the profession. But with welfare reform and health spending already highly charged political battlefields, her challenge is to deliver on the high expectations raised by her appointment.

2 John Hutton
Secretary of state for work and pensions

A Cabinet minister since 2005, Hutton took over the work and pensions brief, including guiding the government’s controversial back-to-work welfare reforms through Parliament, following the departure of David Blunkett. A moderniser and an ex-minister at the Department of Health, Hutton is certainly no journeyman when it comes to workplace health. Although he has reportedly clashed with Gordon Brown over pensions, his political star is rising.

3 Cynthia Atwell
OH consultant

Seasoned OH practitioner who helped set up the much-lauded Diploma in OH Practice Course at the University of Warwick and remains a champion of continuous learning. As UK representative on the Federation of OH Nurses in the European Union (FOHNEU), a member of the SOHN steering committee and with a place on the OH & Safety Advisory committee for the Federation of Small Businesses, Atwell’s influence on the profession is yet to wane.

4 Dr Bill Gunnyeon
Chief medical adviser, Department for Work and Pensions

Former medical director of Capita Health Solutions and president of the Faculty of Occupational Medicine, Gunnyeon’s position as chief medical adviser at the Department for Work and Pensions gives him a front-line position in moulding the OH landscape, albeit from a medical rather than medico-political perspective. Gunnyeon has already called on the profession to widen its horizons and look at the health of the working age population as a whole, rather than simply people in work.

5 Dr Simon Sheard
Medical director, Capita Health Solutions

Previously clinical director at BMI, this fellow of the Faculty of Occupational Medicine was already acknowledged as a leading figure in OH when, following its integration with BMI, Capita became the UK’s largest corporate OH provider. An avowed champion of improved communications between managers and healthcare professionals in combating sickness absence, judging by Capita’s healthy year-end results, he’s in the right place to do so.

6 Dr Sayeed Khan
Chief medical adviser, EEF

As the only chief medical adviser to an employers’ body, the EEF, Khan speaks for some 6,000 manufacturing, engineering and technology-based businesses, many of them the largest users of OH within the country. The former GP is an energetic and vocal exponent of the value of OH. He is also prepared to think radically about the future, such as in his willingness to suggest that the big rise in OH numbers needed to tackle the nation’s workplace health needs will only be achieved by extending the responsibility of health and safety professionals.

7 Carol Bannister
RCN Adviser in Occupational Health, Royal College of Nursing (RCN)

Over the past decade, Bannister has been the representative of OH practice among nursing and the wider business world; campaigning on key issues such as confidentiality, job isolation and mental health. As the profession migrates over to the third part of the Nursing and Midwifery Council register, she has an important task in ensuring policies and practices are in place for OHNs to meet public health standards and wider strategies on workplace health. Currently, Bannister has been seconded to a project to modernise the RCN’s communications strategy to all of its members.

8 Judy Cooke
British Airways (BA), AOHNP president

Since joining BA in 1999, Cook has moved the OH department away from being a treatment-based facility to a modern OH team – providing services to around 40,000 people. Although membership of the AOHNP has waned, Cook ably uses her role there and on the OH editorial panel to promote a multi-skilled approach to OH.

9 Sir Liam Donaldson
Chief medical officer for England since 1999

Donaldson makes the list in part as recognition for his outspoken support, often against government policy, for a ban on smoking in all workplaces. He has also been a key influence on wider public health strategy, notably the 2004 Choosing Health White Paper. Beyond smoking, obesity is rapidly moving up his agenda, as has been the possibility of a bird flu pandemic and its potential impact on the economy.

10 Geoffrey Podger
Chief executive, Health and Safety Executive

The appointment of a civil servant with a background in public health reinforces the HSE’s Health, Work and Wellbeing strategy. While pushing the message to employers that a healthy workforce is efficient and productive, Podger admits the organisation still has a long way to go in promoting occupational health to the wider business community. However, a series of initiatives, such as the launch of Workplace Health Connect, show he means business.

11 Cathy Harrison
Lead on incapacity benefit reforms, Department of Health (DoH)

On secondment from an OHN leadership role within the NHS, Harrison leads two major DoH projects; one on incapacity benefit reforms, where she liaises with the Department for Work and Pensions, NHS Job Centre Plus and the private sector; and one on the retention and rehabilitation pilots and the sickness certification pilots (OH). She has used her position to advocate the importance of OHNs.

12 Dr Jenny Leeser
Clinical director of OH, Bupa Wellness

Bupa is one of the major commercial OH providers in the country, with specific expertise in working with railway companies and smaller and medium-sized enterprises. Clinical director Dr Jenny Leeser is, and has been, a key player in guiding the organisation when it comes to OH. She has also been a long-standing advocate of the need for commercial providers to get out there and bring smaller businesses – an area now increasingly recognised as needing more support – into the OH fold.

13 Dudley Lusted
Head of corporate healthcare, AXA/PPP

Lusted makes the list as one of the driving forces behind the annual CBI absence survey. He was one of the first commentators to make the leap that occupational health needed to be focused less on managing sickness and more on managing wellness, in turn linked to productivity. He has also been a campaigner, so far in vain, for the government to offer tax breaks to companies that invest in the health and wellbeing of their staff.

14 Anne Harriss
Course director, South Bank University

Following a successful corporate and consultancy career, Harriss, initially a lecturer/practitioner and then course director for the BSc OH nursing degree at the RCN, now runs the OH course many describe as one of the best in the country. As one of the most influential educators of the next generation of OH nurses, she champions the wider promotion of courses that encourage leadership and management skills in OH.

15 Susan Anderson
Director of HR, Confederation of British Industry (CBI)

CBI director of HR since 2000, Anderson has been a stern critic of the UK’s ‘sickie culture’, a stance that has earned her the wrath of union bodies such as the TUC and public sector workers, but garnered plaudits from many frustrated captains of industry. Despite her strong belief that absence management has to involve both carrot and stick, she is nevertheless a vocal advocate of occupational health, intervention and rehabilitation.

16 Neil Budworth
President of the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH)

As with his day job as health and safety manager for Severn Trent Water, where ill health caused by work absence rates has fallen, Budworth is pushing OH up the agenda. When research revealed OH and safety professionals focused more on safety than health, he encouraged IOSH to pursue a greater emphasis on health and wellbeing at work and co-operative working between the health and safety and OH disciplines.

17 JOINT ENTRY Sharon Horan and Jan Maw
Royal College of Nursing, OH advisers

The publication of the RCN’s Integrated Career and Competency Framework couldn’t have happened without Maw’s leadership of the project or Horan’s efforts to ensure as many OHNs as possible took part in the consultation. Both continue to play an important role in monitoring the feedback on the framework to help ensure it remains a dynamic document that OH practitioners, educators and employers can utilise to help map skills and competencies.

18 Bashyr Aziz
Head of OH course, Wolverhampton University

With a background in OHN management, Aziz, who moved to academia more than five years ago, now runs one of the most highly recommended OH courses in the country. He was category judge for the Personnel Today Managing Health at Work Award in 2005, and he runs the hugely influential OH mail list, which he founded in 2003 to help improve information exchange and good practice.

19 Steve Boorman
OH consultant, chief medical adviser and corporate social responsibility director,
Royal Mail

Boorman, along with head of employee relations Jon Allen, was the architect of the organisation’s innovative and influential ‘don’t call in sick and win a car’ initiative. The scheme, now widely copied – along with other initiatives – has led to a sharp reduction in absence levels at the company, which three years ago was a self-confessed ‘basket case’ when it came to absence, saving it some 80m a year.

20 Stephan Bevan
Director of research, the Work Foundation

Bevan makes the top 40 for his thought-provoking research into workplace health and attendance management issues. Bevan, author of, among others, the foundation’s 2003 report Absence Management, has consistently argued that absence needs to be seen as an organisational performance issue as much as a health or medical one.

21 Christina Butterworth
Chair, OH Managers Forum

Butterworth is now OH manager at British Gas, having moved from Hertfordshire Constabulary, where she also had responsibility for maintaining a centre of excellence in occupational health in the police service. She was closely involved in communicating the publication of the RCN Integrated Career and Competency Framework, with a subsequent high profile as the leading voice of OH managers within the profession.

22 Lord Philip Hunt
Health and safety minister, Department for Work and Pensions

No-one can accuse Hunt of not knowing his brief. An NHS administrator from the 1970s and former chief executive of the NHS Confederation, as well as a health minister before resigning over Iraq in 2003, Hunt is steeped in the NHS and medico-politics. Along with John Hutton, he is the man driving through the government’s welfare reform agenda and plans (alongside Carol Black) for expanding the role of OH within the workplace. Hunt has called on the profession to get involved in planning the future for workplace health, so the signs are good – the challenge, as ever, will be whether he can deliver.

23 Hugh Robertson
Senior health and safety policy officer, TUC

Robertson has been in this post since 2004 – and before that its equivalent at Unison – and is perhaps the UK’s most influential union voice on health and safety. A health and safety representative since the 1970s, Robertson has been energetic in promoting the health needs of ordinary workers and, critically, the ongoing failings of many employers. He has been particularly active in areas such as corporate manslaughter, better management of stress and long-term absence and the need for the HSE to do more to tackle rogue employers.

24 Peter Holden
Chairman of the professional fees committee, British Medical Association

A medico-politician of many years standing, GP Dr Peter Holden makes the list because he is the public voice of GPs critical of employers’ and the government’s handling of the issue of how GPs hand out sicknotes. Holden has, in effect, batted the ball back into the employer’s (and OH’s) court by arguing it is up to bosses, not GPs, to do more to tackle the root causes of why workers go off sick, and particularly the management issues that often lie behind stress-related absence.

25 Dr Mike Goldsmith
Chair, Commercial Occupational Heath Providers Association (COHPA)

Formed in 2004, COHPA is a relative newcomer to the OH/medico-political landscape, but it is starting to make its presence felt. Recent campaigns have included the role of GPs and OH in issuing sicknotes, OH workforce shortages and how the current VAT regime can disadvantage commercial OH practitioners.

26 Graham Johnson
Operations manager, Bupa Wellness – Health at Work

Since undertaking the first study in the UK into the incidence of latex allergy among healthcare employees, Johnson has spoken and written extensively on the subject. He’s acted in an advisory capacity to the DoH and the NHS Management Executive on the development and provision of occupational health services, and continues to wield influence as a member of both the SOHN and Occupational Health magazine steering committees.

27 Gail Cotton
Head of occupational health and safety, Leicestershire Fire & Rescue Service

Past president of the AOHNP, its representative on Professional Organisations in Occupational Safety and Health (POOSH) and member of the OH editorial board, Cotton was recently involved with the sickness certification pilot scheme in the Midlands. As a regular speaker on OH issues, (a keynote speaker at the IIRSM’s annual House of Lords Luncheon) delivering the 2005 AOHNP Ruth Alston lecture, she continually challenges OH practitioners to lobby harder for the profession.

28 Maureen McBain
Research assistant, OHN Robert Gordon University and chair, OHN Forum, Scotland

McBain is an OHN who moved into researching nursing roles, models for OH nursing, evidence-based practice, sharing knowledge and skills and working within multi-disciplinary groups. Co-author of an evidence-based report into OH practice in Scotland and involved in developing an OH resources pack for primary care nurses, as chair of the OHN forum in Scotland, McBain is a key exponent in expanding the knowledge base for OH practice.

29 Caroline Whittaker
Senior lecturer in public health,
University of Glamorgan

Amid the furore over OH degrees versus diplomas and while the NMC struggles to figure out how the OH specialism will fit into the wider remit of public health, Whittaker, who was decorated for her stint in Iraq in 2004, concentrates on turning out competent OHNs. Her diploma course at Warwick University attracted many nurses moving into OH, until she recently took up her new role at the University of Glamorgan.

30 Sue Eynon
Senior OH adviser, HR (people) division, National Assembly for Wales

Eynon works at the heart of Welsh government and is an active member of the South Wales OH Nurses Group and a member of the RCN OH Forum. Her department recently applied the Welsh initiative ‘Health Challenge Wales’ to the OH services on offer to assembly staff, linking the initiative back to the Welsh administration’s ‘corporate health standard’, which benchmarks all major public organisations in Wales.

31 Dr Barbara Kneale
Group occupational health and safety manager, Peugeot

Car giant Peugeot’s decision earlier this year to close its Ryton manufacturing plant in the West Midlands was a bitter personal blow to Barbara Kneale. But it is because of her work in spearheading the government-backed pilot scheme looking into alternatives to the Med 3 GP sicknote that Kneale makes this list. Conclusions on the pilot are set to be presented to ministers this autumn and, if deemed a success, could have a profound influence on how workers are signed off sick, and what role OH has to play in this process.

32 Mary Brassington
Chair, Association of National Health Occupational Health Nurses (ANHON) and senior nurse manager, Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust

Although the inaugural meeting of the ANHONs was held just three years ago, it is already firmly established as the voice for OH nurses working within the NHS. Its recent conference attracted more than 100 delegates. Under Brassington’s chairmanship, ANHON looks set to continue to raise the profile of OHNs working within the NHS, among both their OH peers and NHS colleagues.

33 David Maslen-Jones
Nurse consultant, Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust

As occupational health’s only voice on the governing council of the Nursing and Midwifery Council, Plymouth OH nurse consultant David Maslen-Jones has a lonely but hugely important job to do. He was elected to the NMC in May and has said that his key job is to ensure the profession, often overlooked or even misunderstood by the majority of nurses, is heard more clearly.

34 Tammy Daly
OH nurse consultant

In 2002, Tammy Daly became the first OH nurse consultant in the UK – a ground-breaking appointment that paved the way for others to follow. Daly, who splits her time between Nottingham City Hospital, Queen’s Medical Centre and Nottingham University Hospital, is a keen advocate of OH professionals improving links with GPs, and for raising the profile of the OH nurse – both as a mentor to other nurses and an educator of managers and employees.

35 Patricia Hewitt
Secretary of state, Department of Health

Hewitt presides over a government department which promotes public health harder than ever before, and her previous job at the Department of Trade and Industry suggests an understanding of the relationship between work and health. But with the dubious distinction of being the first health secretary to be booed by nurses at their annual congress, she still has some way to go to earn the trust of the profession.

36 Elizabeth Gyngell
Head of the Health and Safety Executive’s Better Health at Work division

Although retiring later this year, Gyngell has played a key role in the promotion of health and safety at work. In particular, her role in spearheading the development of Workplace Health Connect could in time contribute significantly to opening up smaller businesses to OH expertise. She has also had a central role in raising the profile of NHS Plus and developing and meeting the targets outlined in the Securing Health Together strategy.

37 Brian Kazer
Chief executive, British Occupational Health Research Foundation (BOHRF)

One of the first senior health and safety managers to proclaim that ‘good health equals good business’, in his previous role at Blue Circle, Kazer argued OH should be discussed at board level. Now he heads up the de facto organisation engaged in OH research where current projects span mental health, back pain, hand-arm vibration, occupational asthma and the ageing workforce, all of which further the OH evidence base.

38 Olivia Carlton
Head of occupational health, Transport for London

Dr Olivia Carlton oversees one of the biggest commercial OH departments in the country – some 50 strong. Under Carlton, London Underground has developed a reputation for being a pioneer on how best to tackle, support and rehabilitate workers suffering from stress, trauma and drug and alcohol addiction. Carlton herself has also been a vocal exponent of the need for OH to work more closely with management at an organisational level, and particularly to take a leaf out of HR’s book and argue the business case for OH at board level much more effectively.

39 Dr Kit Harling
Occupational health consultant

Dr Kit Harling makes the list for his ground-breaking work with the Department of Health in helping to set up NHS Plus. Although Harling has stepped back from the front line of medico-politics, and NHS Plus now comes under OH ‘tsar’ Carol Black’s remit, he is still widely respected as an innovative thinker about occupational health and its future direction, particularly the role that NHS occupational health expertise can play in improving the health of all workplaces.

40 Paul Nicholson OBE
Occupational health doctor

Nicholson was awarded the OBE in June for services to occupational medicine, in particular for chairing the research working group that produced the world’s first evidence-based guidelines for occupational asthma, published by BOHRF in 2004. More recently, as a member of the DoH’s National Advisory Group that produced a report for ministers, he looks sure to make a further contribution to the OH profession.

What do you think?

Who do you think should have been on the list? If you think it is wide of the mark then let us know. Who are the unsung heroes of OH – those working behind the scenes to set standards for others in the field? If you want to nominate someone for a future list, contact the editor:
Tel: 020 8652 4669
Write: The Editor, Occupational Health, 5th Floor, Quadrant House, Sutton, Surrey SM2 5AS

Honourable mention
One person who merits a special mention is OH nurse Greta Thornbory. We felt her role as consulting editor for Occupational Health made it inappropriate to include her on the list. Otherwise, she would certainly have been listed for her work on educating and informing nurse practitioners through this journal and the conferences she has organised for Industrial Relations Services. A former programme director for continuing professional development at the Royal College of Nursing and an OH lecturer, Thornbory was also senior OH adviser for the Cabinet Office.

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