In principle, the NHS+ service will broaden reasonably practicable access to health screening, pre placement medicals , rehabilitative expertise and guidance on prevention. There will be less acceptance of SME’s not doing the right thing. A small change in liability insurance exposure is foreseeable.
NHS+ Launch 19th November 2001
NHS+ is an Occupational Health service now being offered by NHS Trusts to their local communities in exchange for money. Any profits should be reinvested in the local service, there is no central organisation taking money out of the local schemes.
When the NHS was established, occupational health services were not included in the core requirements, even though the health/work link was a strong feature of the debate at the time. For many years, NHS staff had limited occupational health support for their own needs, but staff shortages, under performance, sickness absence and ill health retirement costs have led to the creation of comprehensive services which compare favourably with many commercial outfits.
Trusts have permission to raise revenue through the sale of OH services to a wide range of customers including, local authorities, councils, charities and businesses. Their aim is to increase access to services for SME’s and institutions without the ability to invest in infrastructure and facilities of their own.
Ministers and unions have given the project strong vocal support, and are hopeful that vocational rehabilitation will become more practicable in industry. They have also recently set aside funds for GPs to retain occupational health services for themselves and their own staff. They hope that a customer facing service will adopt practices that make access to services as painless as possible.
It was noted at the launch, that the threshold for compliance with the Disability Discrimination Act will fall from 20 employees to, 15 employees, in near future and that there will be no threshold by the year 2004. Disability assessment and the making of reasonable adjustments to work are within the scope of OH services.
Very little mention was made of the relevance of NHS+ to the currently unemployed, except to remind us that only 10% of people on Incapacity Benefit ever return to work. Pilot projects are under way to improve Job Centres. Ministers were concerned that the economy needs to make better use of its human resources.
An NHS based OH service is unique in being able to offer a national service and aims to build on the high public regard for the NHS ethic.
There are some simple rules though, OH services should only be offered to the community once they are available to NHS staff and of approved quality. NHS staff should be the core business.
Several service delivery models are being experimented with including: