18 June 2013 – Top marks for Airedale’s occupational health team
Employee health and wellbeing staff at Airedale Hospital are celebrating after passing a new national accreditation with flying colours.
The team were praised and given four commendations by external assessors, who visited the hospital as part of the Safe Effective Quality Occupational Standards (SEQOHS) award scheme, governed by the Royal College of Physicians of London.
Assessors congratulated the team on achieving a ‘paper light’ system; its leadership and cohesion within the team, including how they use telemedicine to have consultations to provide a more efficient and convenient service, its written protocols, and its security checklist and the safety of its medicines audit.
The team currently provide occupational health services to staff at Airedale NHS Foundation Trust, Bradford District Care Trust, GPs, In Communities – a local housing trust and 26 external companies. Any income generated by the team is ploughed back into improving the health and wellbeing of Trust staff and improving patient care and patient safety.
The service is provided by 17 members of staff, including nine nurses and a consultant in occupational medicine. Their role includes:
- carrying out luncg function and hearing loss checks, blood testing, and advising on skin complaints
- giving medicals to a wide range of staff from administrative to fork lift truck drivers
- helping to manage sickness absence referrals
- providing support around work capability statements to both staff and their managers
- delivering vaccination and immunisation programmes
- managing the contract for a counselling service run by the employee assistance programme
- providing health and wellbeing advice including helping staff cope with mental health problems
Karen Swann, head of employee health and wellbeing services, who has a nursing and managerial background, said: “We had to prove that we met over 50 national quality standards. The assessors came to spend a day with us and spoke to members of our team, our HR director and our Chief Executive about the service.
We are delighted to recieve accreditation, recognition of the “team working” ethos of our staff and positive comments about our work. Our employee health and wellbeing team works very hard to ensure that we provide an effective service.
“An important aspect of our job is to help managers identify areas of ill health before it leads to sickness absence and to provide the support that employees need to return to work after illness or injuring themselves which may involve making adjustments to their tasks.”
Staff can refer themselves into the service for confidential advice about any work-related issues.
Procedures for looking after equipment and how it was tested and how staff were trained were examined as part of the assessment.
How the team used telemedicine to provide an occupational health service was of particular interest to the assessors. In-communities based on Victoria Street, in Shipley, is the main company to benefit from this service as many of their employees work off-site all over the district. The private company provides and manages rented and leasehold affordable homes across the district.
All referrals to the employee health and wellbeing service are triaged by the team’s nurses who decide which would be the most appropriate cases for telemedicine and arrange an appointment for the client to speak to a nurse of doctor based in the hospital’s Telehealth Hub via secure video link with a screen in their own workplace. These clients may have mental health problems, need assessment for whether they are fit to return to work, be suffering from circulation problems or it could be their managers who need advice.
Karen said: “There was a nervousness initially, particularly from our nurses who are used to doing lots of face-to-face work. But the clients have been very happy with it as it’s such a convenient service for them as their workforce, who could be gardeners or environmental services or CCT operators, simply have to return to their base at a fixed time rather than travel to Airedale Hospital.