The multidisciplinary specialism of Occupational Health (OH) looks after the workforce from a health-on-work and work-on-health perspective, supporting our economy, our society and our people. With employer commitment, output and service delivery are positively affected.
This is a huge issue: the Times recently reported the economic impact of ill health as £150 billion to the economy and £70 billion to the government, which includes the loss of economic output and the cost to the NHS.
The need for Occupational Health (OH) support within organisations is being spoken about at many levels. Great health benefits would follow greater utilisation of OH, and therefore the number of OH clinicians also needs to increase. One of the most effective ways of doing this is via pre-registration clinical placements.
Shriti Pattani (Society for Occupational Medicine President and OH Physician) provided evidence to the DWP Select Committee Inquiry on Jobs and Employment Support about the case for providing OH in the workplace on 25th January 2023, describing the individual, social and economic benefits. Shriti Pattani said, “OH is recognised strategically to be part of keeping staff safe and healthy in the workplace and therefore benefits the productivity of the business.” Jan 2023 parliament. tv.
This reinforces the contribution OH provides, evidenced in the 2021 Government response: Health is everyone’s business. This documented the link between work and the health of employees, and the benefit of having an effective workplace health strategy. The Society of Occupational Medicine (SOM) in their 2022 paper, ‘Occupational Health, the value proposition’, provides a clear overview of benefits from all perspectives. Recently the Welsh Conservatives requested the Labour government to encourage employers to access OH to improve economic outcomes (Personnel Today 2023).
Placements and Shadowing Opportunities
Increasing the number of Occupational Health clinicians is crucial to meet current demand, let alone future demand. This means attracting people into the workforce. So how can we do this? OH is not in the current curriculum for student nurses, Allied Health Professionals (AHPs) or medics, so the only way to expose people to OH is via shadowing opportunities and placements.
Effective placements are sought after by most Higher Education Institutes (HEIs) and therefore opening doors to students is an ideal opportunity. Many skills matching curriculum needs can be learnt in this environment such as:
- Public Health
- work-related ill health
- the impact of health on work
- communication skills
- research skills
- educating skills
- various health checks
- history taking
- the biopsychosocial model
- complaint handling
- risk assessment
- mental health
- health awareness
- health promotion.
Placement opportunities are well supported by HEIs, keen for the placements to succeed. Most HEI’s offer training to supervisors and assessors, although there is also free training via e-Learning for Health (e-LFH). There is good evidence that practice placements in GP surgeries have been a success in building that workforce (England NHS) and therefore it is likely that the same will occur in OH.
The benefits go beyond workforce development. Upskilling the current workforce to support students, enabling a focus on work as a health outcome, plus the wellbeing of the workforce can change patient and staff outcomes in the long term.
Occupational Health – there is good, easy-to-access training via e-LFH Occ 01 Health e-working .
Starting the upskilling process for pre-registration supervisors, these e-learning courses are easily accessible.
Hosting placements – a 30-minute lived experience video is here via YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GQ-pXWplPS0 which gives a flavour of what is required.
You may also wish to read this article from Occupational Medicine on successful pre-registration placements in an NHS OH department.
For all other information and support – please email me at: Janet.ONeill@hee.nhs.uk
Janet O’Neill (RN, Dip OH, MSc)
Deputy Head of the National School of Occupational Health (NSOH)
Janet is an Occupational Health Nurse Advisor. As Deputy Head of the National School of Occupational Health (NSOH), her role is to support the development of OH nurses and Allied Health Professionals to not only grow in numbers but also in quality. Janet also works for PAM Group as head of PAM Academy, the training and development branch of the business.