A proposed review of the entire NHS workforce was unveiled last week by health secretary Alan Johnson as part of a wider package of measures intended to keep people healthy at work.
It follows the first report on the health of the UK’s working-age population, which was carried out by Dame Carol Black, the national director for health and work and published in March. Working for a Healthier Tomorrow called for urgent and comprehensive reform of occupational health.
The NHS workforce review – which is expected to take 12 months to complete – will look at all the available evidence on what makes a healthy workplace, including NICE guidance and NHS staff surveys.
An assessment of existing health and well-being provisions at work, such as occupational health services, will then be carried out.
Following this assessment, recommendations for system-wide changes will be made.
A spokesperson for the Department of Health said: ‘The quality of NHS workplaces impacts on both the quality of care and on the health and well-being of those delivering it.
‘The review is not about individuals’ fitness to practise, it’s about the provision of support to help staff keep healthy at work.’
He added: ‘The review will not put additional work on NHS staff, including nurses, but it is essential that they are engaged throughout the process.’
RCN president Maura Buchanan welcomed the review, saying it showed that the health of nurses was being taken seriously.
‘The NHS is one of the biggest public-sector employers in the country and needs to look after its workforce,’ she said.
However, she added: ‘I would like to see the review identify some of the real issues faced by frontline nurses
who are exposed to the daily pressures of delivering health care.’
The Department of Health plans to start the review within the next six months.
NHS Plus is currently responsible for occupational health support for NHS staff.