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Prof. Diana Kloss MBE on Brexit and occupational health and safe

Prof. Diana Kloss recently spoke to the North West Society of Occupational Medicine regional group on the impact of Brexit at the Bentley Motors factory in Crewe.

In her talk Prof. Kloss explained the legal position of the government and its relationship to Parliament and the courts. She reviewed the White Paper on the Great Repeal Bill and tried to predict what new legislation will be needed.  She emphasised that workers' rights both in health and safety and employment law were enshrined in law both before the UK joined the EU, and during UK  membership and that these rights may be reviewed after the UK leaves.

In particular, some provisions of the Working Time Regulations, the Agency Regulations and TUPE are unpopular with business and may be amended.  Special consideration was given to the General Data Protection Regulation which will come into force throughout the EU in May 2018.  It is likely that the UK will need to make substantial amendments to the Data Protection Act.

Members were impressed by the Occupational Health (OH) service provided by Bentley, including access to physiotherapy in the workplace and counselling through an Employee Assistance Programme.  This was a great example of the diversity of working in OH. To join the SOM NW Group go to https://www.som.org.uk/membership.

Diana Kloss is a barrister and part-time chairman of Employment Tribunals in Manchester. She is also an Honorary Senior Lecturer in Occupational Health Law at the University of Manchester.

Diana will also be speaking at an event on the implications of Brexit on UK workplace/workforce health on 10th May. See https://www.rsm.ac.uk/events/events-listing/2016-2017/sections/occupational-medicine-section/omh03-occupational-health-in-a-global-market.aspx

 

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North West

Alice's Story

As illustrated by Alice’s story, it is important to assess employees post-offer when they have significant medical conditions which might impact on work.  Adjustments made at this time has the potential to prevent any adverse effect on their impairment and maximize their potential for work. Evidence has shown early intervention services are far more successful at maintaining employees being engaged, productive and well, than referrals to occupational health after the employee has been off work on sick leave for 4 weeks or more and it is likely to be even more effective if a preventive approach is taken.

 

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Tri service occupational health symposium – March

Sandhurst Military Academy

Held every two years, this event at Sandhurst Military Academy brings together occupational health and medicine professionals working in the armed forces. A key note address from the Chief of Defence People, Lt Gen Richard Nugee, on the first day outlined the challenge: to ensure the maximum number of military personnel are fully deployable. As part of this objective, military occupational health practice helps protect, promote and restore health ensuring medical fitness to both employ and deploy soldier sailors and airmen (common issues being mental health and musculoskeletal injuries). Thankfully, all military personnel have access to good quality occupational health, whereas in the civilian population this is not the case.

Dr Robin Cordell has worked both in the military and civilian sectors and compared occupational health practice between the two. He highlighted the enduring importance of leadership. Workplace health problems can arise wherever there is poor leadership and team functioning. It was reassuring to hear that a core part of the training at Sandhurst is to support a leadership style that serves and aims to improve team dynamics and interpersonal relationships. He also highlighted that military occupational health has unique challenges, hazards and risks such as with the equipment used. Whereas private sector occupational health services have a commercial imperative, in the armed forces there is a shared outcome of facilitating return to work / being deployable for operations.

The first day also covered current issues in the military workforce: women fighting in ground close combat, transgender issues and women as submariners.  I was impressed as to how military occupation health professionals also provide a significant contribution to the broader OM community –through an impressive investment in training of the next generation of professionals and undertaking research. There were some excellent research presentations - for example, examining if there is there a link between higher body mass index and fitness for deployment - is it that the bigger you are the more likely you were going to be unfit to be deployed? The results confirmed that is the case, and that excess weight and obesity effectively cost the Royal Navy 108 deployable bodies – a whole ship of people! However, it was reassuring to know that if the Royal Navy’s population was the same weight as the UK’s population there would be significantly more men unfit to deploy. Other research suggested that recruiting standards should be maintained and that efforts should be made to reduce obesity as this can also lead to increased risk of injury.

Nick Pahl, SOM CEO

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SOM and FOM response to Improving Lives: the Work, Health and Disability Green Paper

Consultation event

On Friday 17th February SOM and FOM submitted our joint response to Improving Lives: The Work, Health and Disability Green Paper.

This followed a series of events with our members and stakeholders, from a round table hosted with Lord Blunkett in the House of Lords to a number of multi-disciplinary meetings - one of which was delivered with the Health and Work Unit as a formal part of their consultation.  We also did an online survey encouraging all our members to input and thank you to those who took the time to do so!  There were a lot of questions so we really appreciate it.

The paper will now move towards a white paper allowing the government to set out their proposals for future legislation.  We very much hope the paper will reflect our suggestions and use this opportunity to really make a difference to the employment prospects of those with a disablity or long term health condition. 

 

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Alcohol and the workplace

167,000 years of working life were lost in 2015 due to alcohol and alcohol costs the UK between £21 billion and £52 billion a year.  For people aged 15-49 in England, alcohol misuse is the biggest risk factor for early death, ill health & disability

The impact of alcohol can have a wide rang of impact, from sickness absence and low productivity to putting the employee themselves, alongside colleagues and customers, at risk of harm.

Occupational Health support can be crucial to managing the impact of alcohol on the workplace.  For example London Underground operates a zero tolerance policy for drugs and alcohol in order to keep customers and staff safe. This policy was created by London Underground and union partners more than 20 years ago and every employee is briefed on it and the reasons behind it.

The TfL Occupational Health team, led by Chief Medical Adviser for Transport for London Dr Olivia Carlton, provide early interventions such as physiotherapy and counselling to achieve early recovery after illness and injury and crucially offers support those who have asked for help with alcohol addiction.  This means that alongside the zero tolerance policy, help is on offer for those who need it.

The alcohol health alliance has been supporting Alcohol Concern’s dry January. Find out more: www.dryjanuary.org.uk  

 

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Work and Health Green Paper consultation meeting

We are hosting a consultation event on 31st January 2017 in the Principle Hotel, Station Road, York (just by the train station).

The event is free and open to health professionals, small and large employers, NHS staff etc.

The aim of the day will be to discuss the work, health and disability green paper (https://consultations.dh.gov.uk/workandhealth/consult/) to feedback to the Department of Health/Department of Work and Pensions Work and Health Unit.

Agenda

10am Arrival
10.30am Welcome – Dr Sally Coomber, President, SOM.
Rachel Maskell (MP for York) /  DWP/ DH to contact Ministerial office
10.45am DH/DWP speaker tbc
11:15am Q and A and coffee
11.45am “Dragons Den” discussion on Green Paper
Panel - Dr Julia Smedley, Diana Kloss, Dr Robin Cordell, Mark Armour and nurse (tbc)
12.45pm Lunch
1.30pm-2.45pm Break out discussion
Facilitators – Ailsa McGinty, Alison Raw – DWP/DH unit, Dr Sally Coomber, Mark Armour, Dr Julia Smedley
Scribes  - Judith Willets, Nick Pahl, Natalie Edbrooke, Leigh Harrison,  Jane Edbrooke
1.    How can occupational health and related provision be organised so that it is accessible and tailored for all?
2.    Can you give an example of how occupational health is best delivered e.g. Privately? through the NHS?  
3.    What are your positive and negative experiences of the Fit for Work service a) clinically and b) in terms of process
4.    How can we create a system where everyone who is eligible for occupational health assessment and advice is referred as matter of course?
5.    Who is best placed to provide work and health information, make a judgement on fitness for work and provide sickness certification?

2:45pm-3.30pm– feed back and wrap up Nick Pahl, CEO, SOM

To book – contact Natalie.Elmitt@som.org.uk
(thanks to the DWP/DH for funding this event)

 

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Taster Week- A foundation year two's experience of Occupational Health

‘You are the first person I’ve met who wants to do that’ is the usual response I get when I tell people I want to specialise in Occupational Medicine. It doesn’t matter whether this is my friends & family, foundation year colleagues, or hospital consultants.

I first became interested in Occupational Medicine as a third-year medical student. It was a combination of discovering the sub-specialty of aviation medicine as a member of the Southampton University Air Squadron and attending Professor Coggon’s series of lectures.

As a final year medical student I was allocated four weeks to undertake an elective placement or career taster. I chose to do the entire block in the University Hospital Southampton Occupational Health Department. Not only was it a nice change from the busy wards and final year hysteria but it cemented my belief that this was the specialty for me.

I was in a unique position as the department had never taken on a final year medical student. I imagine this is similar up and down the country, even in other large teaching hospitals. This is due to the fact that occupational medicine typically attracts doctors later in their careers and is covered only briefly in most medical school curriculums.

The placement was advantageous in two main ways: The first was that I saw patients from a different perspective, as workers. Medical school training is highly focussed on the acute management of conditions, now I was able to see how people cope with long term management and the impact on everyday life. This was different from general practice as working age people (unless long term unemployed) tend not to have frequent contact with their GPs.

The second was that I was able to reflect on my own health. There have been a number of initiatives in recent years to promote ‘practitioner health’ and wellbeing amongst medical professionals. Seeing first-hand the mental health problems faced by medical professionals left me with a better understanding of resilience and why it is important.

Two years later I returned to the department (this time providing welcome relief from the A&E SHO Rota). All foundation trainees are allocated one week of study leave to further explore a specialty they are interested in and demonstrate commitment to that specialty when it comes to applications. For me it was important to revisit the specialty to ensure it was still what I wanted to do. Being around familiar faces was helpful as I could build on previous knowledge.

The week was well planned with a busy timetable of clinics and training opportunities. I attended registrar, consultant and nurse clinics. The cases had varying levels of complexity, and I saw a large number of orthopaedic and mental health problems as well as a smaller number of autoimmune and neurological cases. I was impressed with the team dynamic within the department. I know from my experience on the wards that just talking about having an multi-disciplinary team does not always result in good team working. What stood out to me was the unified sense of purpose and clear direction amongst all members of staff.

I was lucky enough to spend time discussing the training pathway, making the transition from other specialties, as well as the future of occupational health and the challenges it faces. The highlight of my week was finding out about the research of the MRC Lifecourse Epidemiology unit. They are doing some fantastic work which has helped inform national policies and improved safety at work. This work is also helping address health inequalities, something my generation of doctors and medical students are deeply passionate about as the gap in inequalities seems to be widening.

From these discussions, I think the next few years will be very positive for occupational health and I see it becoming an increasingly popular specialty. I think there will be a combination of push and pull factors; such as people becoming unhappy in their current specialties (with the working conditions and contract disputes). The pull factors will be more important though; which is that there are excellent training opportunities, time with patients, good job prospects, and it’s a specialty where you can really make a difference in improving service and shaping it’s future.

Many thanks to Dr Skidmore for organising my taster week, as well as Dr Smedley, Jean Piernicki, Dr Channa, Dr Walker-Bone, and the rest of the OH department who all gave up their time to accommodate me.

Dr Peter Tamony

 

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Why Employee Health Matters

David Frost CBE makes an emphatic case for why businesses should invest in the health and wellbeing of their staff. Not one to mince words, David states it plainly: happy, healthy employees are more productive, and this is better for the bottom line. And good occupational health provision needn’t be prohibitively expensive. As David explains, there are many options which allow small and medium-sized business to take care of their employees’ wellbeing without impacting profitability. Indeed, David’s core message is that if we take care of our staff, our staff will take care of us. 

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