The Faculty of Occupational Medicine and Society of Occupational Medicine welcome plans announced by the Government to consult on their Improving lives: work, health and disability green paper. This paper aims to halve the disability employment gap and make changes to work capability assessments. We especially welcome the acknowledgement in the green paper that work is in itself a ‘health outcome’.
We share the Government’s dismay that less than half (48%) of disabled people are in employment – over 7 million people in the UK. We know that good work is good for health and employment should be available to all.
Part of the consultation includes a review of GP fit notes to support workers back into their jobs faster, and for longer. We spoke out earlier this year against calls for the period for self-certification to be extended to 14 days and hope that this review will focus on strengthening GP and health professionals’ understanding of occupational health to support patients to return to work successfully.
Dr Sally Coomber, SOM President said:
“We are keen to work with the DWP and DH over the next few months, as they consult on the green paper, so we can develop better occupational health support right across the health and work journey.
At the heart of this must be an accredited and quality assured multi-disciplinary occupational health workforce. Therefore the recent GMC report showing an 11% reduction is specialist occupational physicians between 2011 and 2015 is worrying and the decline in trainee number must be addressed urgently. ”
Dr Richard Heron, FOM President, said:
“I am delighted to see that our efforts to see work as a health outcome are being recognised in government. We support the ambition to develop a system where healthcare professionals recognise the value of a referral for occupational health advice.
However, while “Fit for Work” is a step in the right direction, there is still a way to go before we can say all employees have timely access to safe, effective and quality assured occupational health support which puts the individual and their health circumstances at the heart of a support-tailored programme. There also needs to be workforce capacity to deliver this tailored support.”
We will be consulting with our members and key stakeholders to respond to the green paper.