Shake up planned for NHS occupational health provisions

People with jobs in occupational health are among those who are being affected by government measures to cut the deficit. Indeed, plans announced by the Department of Health (DH) reveal that the framework for occupational health jobs and services in the NHS is set to change.

The DH wants occupational health within the service to progress, Personnel Today reports. Under its proposals, a major shake-up of local services is set to take place that will include mergers and the creation of larger partnerships.

By 2013, occupational health costs in the health service need to have been reduced by £555 million.

The government hopes that a new culture concerning health and wellbeing among NHS staff members will arise

In the improvement framework, the DH urges NHS employers to utilise an “NHS occupational health service that offers a targeted, proactive and accredited support system for staff and organisations”.

The changes would be bound to have an impact on the roles of those responsible for performing jobs in occupational health.

Responding to the plans, NHS Plus director Dr John Harrison noted his belief that some services will merge. Meanwhile, responding to the idea that restructured services need to ensure that the skills of the whole team are used more effectively, he commented: “OH is a multi-disciplinary service, and you need the right people at the right level doing the right tasks, not a mismatch.”

Meanwhile, the DH also wants the NHS to become the main trainer of the next generation of those seeking occupational health jobs. However, there are still questions concerning the ability of the service to take on the role of primary trainer, particularly given its financial constraints.

Dr Harrison stated: “Developments now proposed in service delivery must not leave training behind.”

He also argued that occupational health professionals need to better explain their roles in the context of their organisations’ broader wellbeing strategy.

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