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Occupational health support to NHS Trusts in leading the fight against COVID-19

Posted by Ann Caluori | Thu, 09/04/2020 - 12:19


Guest blog by Phil Waterworth, Clinical Operations Director at Team Prevent


As the COVID-19 crisis escalated, it became clear very quickly that managers in the NHS required help in supporting staff with underlying health conditions to remain in work and with redeployment. We developed a ‘Managers Risk Assessment’ with guidance in line with Public Health England (PHE) and government advice, so that they could manage staff quickly and keep staff in work in a safe environment. A manager advice line was set up to support this. The manager advice line provides information to managers about employees who are either at risk and / or extremely vulnerable and offers practical advice regarding COVID-19, fitness to work, and redeployment to ensure NHS staff remain in work and safe. We also set up an employee helpline offering advice and support directly to NHS staff who may have questions about themselves or their families and wanted to access support during these difficult times.


With the announcement of the UK implementing lockdown and many workers self-isolating or working from home, combined with the frontline clinical workforce continuing to work, we produced two detailed Health and Wellbeing Packs, for home workers and those in self-isolation as well as those who are at work on the front line, including videos and podcasts on topics such as mental health, boosting your immunity, physical activity, nutrition, sleep and tips for working from home. The packs offer practical advice on maintaining health and wellbeing and where to access support during these unprecedented times.


We also responded quickly to the government’s call for retirees to return to the NHS and the plan to bring student nurses, paramedics and medical students into the workforce by developing a rapid Pre Placement Questionnaire (PPQ) process. We worked with our NHS contract leads and recruitment teams to ensure the efficient progression of this much needed cohort of workers. We were able to assure a member of the STP Workforce programme, who is currently working in the COVID-19 workforce mobilisation hub, that our processes would meet the requirements to expedite occupational health checks into the system to support the fight against COVID-19. Likewise, we have continued immunisation and vaccination clinics, essential health surveillance and any business-critical fitness to work medicals such as the C1 driver medicals required for paramedics. We are obviously following all HSE guidelines regarding health surveillance during COVID-19 but recognise the need to support NHS colleagues at a time when they need occupational health support the most.     


The government recently announced the increase in testing for NHS staff and so we have been working closely with UHNM NHS Trust to develop a protocol for accurate and efficient testing whilst limiting infection spread. After just 3 days the testing had resulted in 17 key personnel returning to work including the Associate Director of A&E, 1 ITU nurse and 7 emergency nurses. We are now involved in testing NHS staff at 6 Trusts and will continue to help return vital staff to work on the frontline.