An occupational health nurse has questioned the viability of the government's Health and Work Service (HWS) and in particular the ability to conduct return to work consultations over the telephone.
Speaking at the [email protected] Summit 2014, RWEnpower occupational health nurse manager Claire Forty said she was sceptical that the government would be able to recruit the amount of occupational health professionals it would need to run the service.
"I don't see how it will work, I don't see where they will get the professionals from," she said.
"I'd like to think that our advice would take precedence because then what's the point in having us?"
There has been heavy criticism of the HWS, particularly regarding its decision to primarily use a telephone-based model to provide consultations and support.
Forty was equally cynical of telephone support being used for the HWS: "What's really hard about that particularly for mental health issues is so much about what you get out of consultation is what you see. So if someone comes in with a musculoskeletal issue, you can tell them to walk up to a chair, but if they're on the end of a phone they could be down the bottom of the garden having a fag, you can't tell.
"So it's definitely a skill and there's some very specific training needed because you need to pick everything up through your ear rather than using your eyes as well. It's not something I would want to do all the time, I think it's a huge responsibility on the person doing it. So my gut feeling is you would probably err on the side of caution because you don't get those visual clues, so maybe it makes you more cautious," she added.
Calls today from the manufacturers' representative EEF asked for the HWS to be made compulsory, while also arguing that employers should be offered more incentive and opportunity to offset the costs of providing health interventions to return employees to work sooner.