2. Buying support from occupational health professionals

Where health surveillance is required, it is normally set up and delivered with input from a competent occupational health professional, for example an occupational health doctor or nurse.

To ensure you buy the right support, you should:

  • know your health needs - this should be based on your risk assessment
  • use your resources in the most cost-effective way by using a risk-based approach to occupational health
  • consider if you are buying occupational health support for health surveillance only or if you also need support related to other occupational health activities, for example, safety critical medicals or managing sick leave
  • understand the services you require to help you choose an occupational health professional with the right skills and competence
  • assess occupational health professionals’ competence to provide the services that you need, including experience relevant to your type of workplace
  • ask for a visit from an occupational health doctor or nurse to ensure they have observed your work activities. It is vital that they understand your health hazards and risks
  • seek assurance from the occupational health professional that they can provide the services that you require perhaps by asking for testimonials from previous customers

Alongside agreeing a contract, you should discuss and agree with the occupational health professional the detail of a service level agreement. The information they supply you with should be clear and in a user-friendly format. A service level agreement should include:

  • the services that will be provided. This needs to be agreed at the outset of any contract and revisited whenever the contract is renewed
  • involvement in workplace visits and the risk assessment process
  • the resources required to deliver the service you need, including:
    • numbers of staff, skill mix, which considers staff competency
    • location and method of delivery of services
  • the process for referrals to the occupational health professional, including:
    • timescales for appointments, managing missed appointments
    • closing cases with and without referral for further investigations
    • referral of workers for further investigations
  • a system to help you populate the information required for statutory health records
  • assurance of adequate systems to protect workers’ confidentiality and maintenance of medical records:
    • that is compliant with General Data Protection Regulations
    • including a system for transferring medical records (paper and electronic) should you change provider
  • how the occupational health professional will ensure that any equipment used is calibrated and records of this are maintained
  • the frequency of health surveillance
  • what you will do with workers who are found to have work-related ill health who:
    • may no longer be fit to be exposed, or
    • whose exposure may have to be limited
  • the communication pathways between you and the occupational health professional, including:
    • format and timescales
    • what information you agree to provide, for example risk assessments, job specifications
    • communication between human resources, line managers and other relevant staff
    • what information the occupational health professional agrees to supply to you to enable you to manage your workers, for example fitness for work statements following health surveillance (individual and grouped anonymised); where applicable letters on fitness to work following safety critical assessments and managing sick leave
    • provision of additional data and statistics
    • dispute resolution process
  • how you will review the performance of your health surveillance scheme, changes in business needs, including how new hazards, processes and controls will be managed
  • governance arrangements implemented by the occupational health professional or provider; this should include the detail of their audit and review processes

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Updated 2021-11-08