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Occupational Health – future proofed?

I’ve enjoyed my time as Joint Head of Communications and Policy for SOM and FOM, and as many of you know when I’m not trying to convince government that they need to see through their promise of universal access to Occupational Health and encouraging stakeholders like GPs that work should fundamentally be seen as a health outcome – I’m an elected Councillor for an inner city Council.


The World Economic Forum believe the retirement age should rise to at least 70 in rich countries by 2050 as life expectancy rises above 100. The rise in life expectancy is a game changer and I think it will force us to fundamentally rethink our society, services and how we see work. The politician in me knows government must continue to raise the retirement age – we can’t afford the pensions bill otherwise. Alongside this the rising cost of adult services, caring for the elderly and those with severe disability, means we are on the brink of bankrupting Local Government.  We need an aging population which is healthy and resilient. 


I will have to work until I retire – and that might be a very long way off. If I can’t work until a much older retirement age I will fall into a potential poverty gap. And this is what I fear the most. A generation too unwell to work but not yet old enough to get a pension. What that means for individuals is concerning, what this could mean for government as this gap leads to increased pressure on the welfare state could be overwhelming.  


But my time at SOM and FOM, building on the years I spent at Nuffield Health, convince me that one of our key messages as proponents of Occupational Health is part of the solution; Workplaces are where lots of people spend most of their working age life, meaning workplaces are powerful environments where we can positively influence health for the benefit of individuals, businesses and national prosperity. We need to support people to stay in work when they develop conditions, especially Musculoskeletal disorders. We need to undertake health surveillance, so work keeps people healthy and does not make us unwell. And dare I say it – we need to use workplaces to improve people’s health.  If we don’t, there is a bleak picture for our elderly.


We therefore need employers to step up and proactively take responsibility for employees health – and I think Occupational Health Professionals have the skills and knowledge to show them how.


Jane Edbrooke 


Jane is moving to a senior policy role at the Big Lottery Fund (which does have access to OH!).