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October 15, 2009

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Occupational-health training- Key workshop outlines progress on pilot programme

IOSH recently hosted a stakeholder workshop to discuss progress so far on the pilot training course for health and safety professionals on occupational health and return to work.

The workshop brought together a number of leading thinkers to review how the pilot training course, developed by IOSH and supported by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), is going. Dame Carol Black, the national director for health and work, took the opportunity to provide an update on progress since her review of the health of the working-age population.

Dame Carol explained that the consultation on electronic ‘fit notes’ had been completed and that the Government planned to introduce them by April 2010. She pointed out that this new system would require clear communication to the public and employers and also highlighted that a national training programme for GPs is under way.

Sandra MacLean, the course provider, outlined the programme’s development and progress so far. She explained that six courses had been held, gave an overview of the course content, and described four case studies in which practitioners who’d attended the course had been able to make a difference in their workplaces.

IOSH president Nattasha Freeman represented the Institution at the workshop, along with members of the policy and technical team. She said: “This follow-up stakeholder workshop was an opportunity for some of the leading players in the occupational-health field to share their views and thoughts on the content of the pilot course and whether it might be adapted and applied more widely.

“This course is about helping fill the gap in support of working-age people, as identified by Dame Carol’s recent review. It’s about equipping occupational health and safety professionals to take a more active role in multidisciplinary working, helping forge closer relationships with occupational health, HR, and other professionals. Many barriers to return to work are organisational, not medical, and health and safety practitioners are ideally placed to help.”

She continued: “One of IOSH’s manifesto commitments is to get better health through better work. Occupational ill health cost an estimated 28 million working days in Great Britain last year. But there is much we can do to cut this down, and help people lead healthy, happy lives. This course is a huge stepping stone towards helping workplaces become better at preventing ill-health, intervening early if things go wrong, and rehabilitating people back into work after they’ve been ill.”

Dr Bill Gunnyeon CBE, chief medical officer for the DWP, summed up the event and the opportunities and challenges that lay ahead. Also in attendance were representatives from the Ergonomics Society, Society of Occupational Health Nursing (SOHN), Society of Occupational Medicine (SOM), Association of Occupational Health Nursing Practitioners (AOHNP) and COPE Occupational Health and Ergonomic Services, the course provider.

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