Pandemic pressure prompts redesign of occupational health for NHS staff

NHS England and Improvement has revealed its ‘vision’ for expanding occupational health services for NHS staff.


It aims to increase OH workforce capacity and capability to provide equality of access to services, which have seen record demand during the pandemic.

The new programme Growing OH, announced this week, falls under the NHS People Plan’s aim to create a culture that ‘empowers NHS people to maintain and improve their health and wellbeing’. 

CSP called for all NHS employers with musculoskeletal health issues – the second biggest cause of sickness absence - to have direct access to occupational physiotherapy in its submission to the NHS People Plan.

Growing OH will also ramp up proactive and preventative care as well as equipping staff to support recovery and enhancing the use of technology in delivery.

The programme’s vision has been developed in consultation with national OH bodies such as NHS Health at Work, Faculty of Occupational Medicine and Society of Occupational Medicine, as well as Social Partnership Forum members.

Physiotherapy workers are invited to help shape how these aims will be implemented as part of an NHS wide consultation to pinpoint improvements to the OH system.

This scoping phase, which will use OH service user feedback in designing service delivery models, will continue until April 2022.

A spokesperson for NHS England and Improvement said: ‘We want to start this exciting programme of work by building energy and momentum with our NHS OH community and wider stakeholders in the true spirit of co-design.’

Emphasising the need for consultation with OH service user, the spokesperson added: ‘This … will inform future ‘blueprints’ for potential service delivery models, and subsequently the development of a longer-term programme of work and investment plan.’

Paul Shawcross, Association of Chartered Physiotherapists in Occupational Health and Ergonomics (ACPOHE) executive committee member, said, ‘It is great to hear that there is a vision to expand occupational health services for NHS workers.

‘The past 18 months has been a particularly challenging time for NHS workers and their health and wellbeing needs have not always been prioritised and supported. 

‘We support the programme’s initial vision to achieve a more proactive and technologically advanced occupational health service in the NHS that aims to empower people in their own health and wellbeing journey. 

‘There is a real opportunity in the current scoping phase for CSP members to have their say. We encourage all physiotherapists, and particularly those working in the NHS, to share their thoughts and help co-create an occupational health service that works for them.’

Physiotherapy workers are being urged to fill out a 10-minute online survey gauging current use of the service and asking how it could be improved.



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