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Occupational health nurses call for new representative body

Wednesday 26th October 2016
Occupational health professionals are calling for the establishment of a new representative body. Image: UberImages via iStock
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Occupational health professionals in the UK are calling for a new representative body to be set up to provide them with greater support and advice in their work.

Nursing Times reports that the Faculty of Occupational Health Nursing Development Group and The At Work Partnership are campaigning for a new Faculty of Occupational Health Nursing to be set up to represent these healthcare professionals.

The lobby group was founded in 2015 to discover whether there was a need for such a faculty to be formally established, with new research carried out by the organisations showing that the majority of nurses specialising in occupational therapy would indeed like to see a new representative body set up.

Current support for occupational health professionals

A survey carried out by the development group led to the discovery that there are currently around 3,330 nurses working in the field of occupational health in the UK, although demand for these specialists is likely to increase as worker stress levels continue to rise. Indeed, research published by the Trades Union Congress earlier this month showed that stress among workers has reached a record high, with 70 per cent of union reps citing it as an issue affecting workplace productivity.

However, under one-fifth (17 per cent) of occupational therapy nurses said they felt represented by a dedicated body at present. Meanwhile, just 44 per cent revealed that they felt professionally supported at work, due to a lack of understanding of their role and capabilities among other healthcare staff.

If a new representative faculty was formally established to provide support and act as a voice for occupational health nurses, awareness of the value they can add to treatment plans is likely to increase, creating more opportunities for these professionals.

Almost three-quarters (74 per cent) of survey respondents said they would join a Faculty of Occupational Health Nursing if it was created, with a total of 87 per cent believing it to be a good idea that would benefit the future of the profession.

Why a new representative body is needed

The majority of respondents to the research were members of the Royal College of Nursing, but felt that a more specialised body to represent their unique needs as occupational health experts was still needed.

Jo Berriman, chair of the faculty's development group, explained: "The results of this survey underline the need to establish a national representative body for occupational health nurses to take this important profession forward in helping to improve the health of the working population.

"The landscape of work is rapidly changing, employers are seeking alternative health at work services and there is an increasing shortage of new occupational health nursing talent coming through to replace those who are now approaching retirement.

"The nature of our practice has often been misunderstood by professional and regulatory bodies alike. Occupational health professionals need representation by an organisation that truly understands the work we do and the challenges we face."

Written by Alex Franklin Stortford

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