Members of the Council believe that it is uniquely placed to be the unified voice of the professions involved in the delivery of health and work services. Its wide ranging membership provides a multi-professional input to developments in health and work through representation at other forums and in response to consultations.
Additionally, members of the Council develop and undertake projects, which are consistent with its guiding mission, and would benefit from multi-professional input.
The following provides a summary of current and recent Council activity:
- Guidance for employers on communication with general practitioners
- Leicestershire Fit for Work Service and the Council for Work and Health
- Training and qualification for occupational health nurses
- Training and qualifications for allied health professionals
- Occupational Health Workforce planning project
Responses to consultations:
- Click here to see responses
Most small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) lack expert occupational health support. GPs are therefore their main source of guidance on the fitness for work of employees with health problems. The recently introduced “fit-note” is an encouragement to GPs to think more carefully about the potential for patients to undertake modified duties when not fit for their normal work. Training is being delivered to GPs to help them with this, but the process is likely to work better if the employer can assist the GP by providing information about the patient’s job and the scope for modification of his/her work. In a system piloted by Royal Mail, managers have been given a simple form on which to record such information for employees who are off work with health problems. The form is then passed to the employee to take to his GP, who can record recommendations on the form and return it to the employee for transmission to the manager. It seems likely a similar system could be used to good effect by other employers.
The Council therefore established a Working Group to produce guidance for SMEs on communication with GPs. Draft guidance and forms were produced and agreed by the full Council. The DWP, BMA and RCGP were also consulted for their comments.
The Council will be working with the Leicestershire Fit for Work Service to pilot the process. 'The Fit Note: advice for small and medium employers' is now available.
With the beginning of the roll out of the electronic fit note, the Council for Work and Health has prepared two sample letters which may be of use to employers / employees to facilitate communication with the GP. They have no legal status. The letters are still the subject of a research project and are offered on the website merely to provide assistance. Any feedback on the efficacy of the letters would be very welcome.
The Council has identified serious shortcomings in current arrangements for training and qualifications for occupational health nurses, which do not adequately distinguish nurses with the knowledge and skills that employers require. The problems have been set out in a Council paper, with recommendations for improvements that would help to address them. The paper has been shared with the four Chief Nursing Officers of the UK countries. Discussions with the Nursing and Midwifery Council have also taken place to seek improvements in OH training.
Many of the allied health professions contribute to the rehabilitation process after illness and injury. The role of these professions has become more prominent following recommendations in the Black and Boorman reports. Currently, however, there is no standardised system of training or accreditation for those who choose to specialize in this way. A sub-group of the Council has developed a report, with input from physiotherapists, occupational therapists and psychologists, which will examine the need for such training, and the ways in which it could be delivered and recognised. The report will provide a basis for discussions with the Health Professions Council, and with potential providers of training in universities.
Subsequently, the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy and College of Occupational Therapy, in consultation with members of the British Psychological Society, have produced an
AHP competency framework. This document describes behaviours, knowledge & skills required for working in occupational health.
The document once completed could be used in a number of ways.
- to promote the role and added value of AHPs working in an occupational health setting (to policymakers / commissioners / service planners/employers etc)
- by individuals/organisations wanting to develop programmes of education to support the development needs of the AHP workforce in occupational health
- to promote & develop AHP careers in occupational health (to the public/new AHP graduates/practitioners considering a move into occupational health)
- to understand the behaviours/knowledge/skills shared by AHPs working in occupational health and the unique contribution each profession brings to an occupational health setting.
The competency framework is available for consultation until the end of February.
It is widely recognised in the Occupational Health professions that the need for OH greatly outstrips the supply of appropriately qualified professionals. Changing workforce demographics is likely to make this worse with more people having to stay in employment longer. However, it is also clear that OH provision is not restricted to face-to-face interventions and that new approaches such as telephone help lines and self-help websites have a part to play.
In order to map out future requirements the Council is supporting a project that aims to articulate a vision of how occupational health should be delivered over the next 20 years and to identify the workforce planning that is needed to support that vision.
Professor John Harrison leads the Workforce Planning Project Group on behalf of the Council. The first phase has involved a literature review and a series of workshops with representatives of relevant stakeholder organisations to consider the strategic environment and define the populations that need to be addressed.
A copy of the report on the first phase of this project is available here.
The next stages of the project include looking at the service delivery models, defining the knowledge, competencies of practitioners and the anticipated workforce requirements.
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The Council for Work and Health supports the recommendations of the report of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Occupational Safety and Health on the occupational medicine workforce crisis.
The Council at its meeting in September 2016 formally set up a Projects Committee chaired by Dr Robin Cordell to explore future research projects that would best make use of the great breadth of knowledge and experience of Council members.
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