It's important that organisations take a collaborative approach to supporting staff in the COVID-19 pandemic. This must include working closely with your occupational health provider, whether internal or external.
Occupational health providers should establish clear links where they do not already exist, and work closely with health and safety leads, infection prevention teams and local health protection teams. They should keep up to date with the most current government information and advice and good practice guidance from the NHS Health at Work Network.
In the absence of effective drugs and vaccinations, infection control relies on prompt identification and risk assessment, management, and isolation. Occupational health is essential to providing the increased proactive support and guidance to staff who may be more vulnerable to COVID-19, such as those with underlying health conditions and/or in at-risk groups, around reasonable adjustments and redeployment.
Occupational health advice should be part of strategic planning for the duration of the pandemic and into the recovery phase, and may be required on an individual basis on issues including:
- return to work after testing, isolation or illness
- management of staff who have concerns about specific vulnerability
- risk assessments
- deploying of temporary and returning staff
- mental health support during and after the pandemic
- supporting staff to return to the workplace following shielding
- responding to changing government guidelines and local restrictions
Occupational health provisions will vary between organisations. Your occupational health provider should review capacity, identify leads, review and develop processes, and work closely with workforce leads where issues arise.
Buying additional occupational health (OH) and employee assistance programme (EAP) capacity
NHS England and NHS Improvement have appointed 30 SEQOHS-accredited OH and EAP service provider organisations to a framework. This dynamic purchasing systems (DPS) framework will enable employers to buy-in additional services on an ad hoc basis to supplement in-house teams.
The following services are available on the DPS framework:
- health clearance for returning NHS workers and volunteers
- remote (on-line/telephone) OH physician/OH adviser management referrals
- a helpline to advise managers and staff on COVID-19 related issues
- wellbeing services such as counselling, coaching and physiotherapy
- on-site support from OH nurses, OH advisers and OH physicians.
Trusts should continue to use existing frameworks for the supply of staff in the first instance, before utilising the DPS framework.
How to access the DPS framework
The framework is hosted by the NHS Health at Work Network. Trusts that are members of the network can access the framework directly, and other organisations can request access.
Using the framework
- NHS organisations can buy additional support to supplement existing OH or EAP services without the need to undertake a tender exercise.
- NHS trusts can work together as regions or across STP/ICS footprints to identify where extra capacity is needed to procure services from the framework jointly in order to maximise flexibility and gain economies of scale.
- By accessing the framework, trusts will be able to see which organisations are providing services in their area and will be able to quickly and easily compare prices across different organisations.
- The framework is in place until 30 September 2021, subject to review by NHS England and NHS Improvement.
You can provide feedback on the framework by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org
Additional OH information and support