Swift action is needed in the light of the COVID-19 crisis to ensure the UK population has access to occupational health (OH) advice and assessment. There is an opportunity now to positively influence the health and wellbeing of the working population and the prosperity of the UK.
Only half the UK population has access to occupational health (OH). There is a strong economic case to implement access to OH for all employers. OH services are key in supporting employees back to work and keeping them in work safely during these challenging times. Small and medium enterprises and the self-employed will need support to ensure there is a safe work environment, with a focus on mentally healthy workplaces. Early research shows that many returning to work during the COVID-19 crisis will return with depleted mental health. OH services have been proven to enable those on sick leave due to mental health problems to return to work successfully. Preventative measures in place through the application of occupational hygiene is also critical. By investing in OH, the government can support employers to safeguard their workforce and manage risks.
SOM has the support from the FOM, RCN, BMA and the Unite Union and TUC for this campaign.
A key ask is ensuring the government delivers on the Health is everyone’s business consultation e.g.:
- Health Education England and its equivalents in the devolved administrations invest in training of OH professionals such as OH nurses and specialist medical training posts
- There should be investment in expert OH advice in government, the establishment of an OH national data set and UKRI investment in a research Centre for Health and Work to translate evidence into policy
- Tax incentives by the Treasury so employers can invest in occupational health
- Access to OH for GPs
- A National Clinical Director for Work and Health to lead this work.
SOM is encouraging members and interested parties to write to their MP using the attached letter as a basis. A parliamentary question has also been asked.