A new report from the Society of Occupational Medicine sets out the value proposition for occupational health services and the benefits of occupational health.
‘Occupational health: the value proposition’ cites evidence that shows organisations most commonly rank occupational health involvement as the most effective method for managing the
problem of employee long-term absence from work. The document also reports that a healthy workplace culture and the adoption of a systematic approach to occupational health can contribute to the success of an organisation.
Managing Sickness Absence
Occupational health expert, Jean Fisher of The OH Business firmly believes that involving an occupational health professional early-on usually offers a better outcome for both employer and employee:
“I am always amazed at how some organisations are still following the path which only leads to the GP, rather than using the medical professionals who are qualified and competent in advising on fitness for work. This path is a dead end as all you will get is the employee’s opinion on what they feel they need, or a suggestion for ‘light duties’, What is actually needed is real actionable advice on treatment options to improve work capability which is what occupational health can provide. It is interesting to reflect on the fact that the expense of writing for meaningless GP reports can be more than paying to get employees diagnosed and treated in the first place.”
SOM Patron, Lord Blunkett, said of the findings:
“This report provides a comprehensive analysis and evidence review of the value of occupational health. It comes at a critical time for the policy agenda for work and health, and the challenge of the productivity gap. It is essential reading for managers, clinicians and policy makers.”
Despite concerns over costs of occupational health interventions, the evidence shows that occupational health services should in fact be highly cost-effective, provided that there
are a variety of skills on offer, that occupational health professionals work to their distinctive competencies, and that the work performed adds value.
Professor Dame Carol Black also welcomed the report, saying:
“The health of people of working age has consequences far beyond themselves – touching their families, workplaces and wider communities. The economic costs of ill-health and its impact on work are measurable; but the human costs are often hidden.
“Working for a healthier tomorrow recommended an expanded role for occupational health that should be available to all. I welcome the new SOM report which distils the evidence to support investment in occupational health services and the benefits provided to people of working age, employers and society.”
Occupational health services have a clear value: they improve the health of the working population; contribute to the prevention of work-related illnesses; prevent avoidable sickness
absence through the provision of early interventions for those who develop a health condition; and increase the efficiency and productivity of organisations. They can also play a major part in protecting and revitalising the UK’s economy.
The report has also been welcomed by The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents; the BMA OM committee; Chair of the What Works Centre for Wellbeing, Dr Paul Litchfield; and
Rachel Suff, Policy Lead for Health and Wellbeing, CIPD.
The report is available at: www.som.org.uk along with three leaflets, for managers, workers and commissioners. It is also available on the Why Occupational Health? website: