Select Committee on Work and Pensions Written Evidence

Memorandum submitted by the Faculty of Occupational Medicine

  The Faculty of Occupational Medicine at the Royal College of Physicians represents the body of UK occupational physicians concerned with specialist standards in occupational medicine. The maintenance of good occupational health in the UK workforce is therefore one of our prime concerns. The Faculty, together with the Society of Occupational Medicine (a parallel organisation of occupational physicians but who do not have the responsibility of standard-setting) has already given evidence on the question of the merger of the Health and Safety Executive and Commission.

  We wish to make comment on:

    —    Resources. As a result of constraints on resources and, we understand, the consequent pressure on HSE to commission as much of its research as possible from the Health and Safety Laboratory—itself an agency or similar of HSE—the amount of research commissioned externally is being severely limited. This has a deleterious affect on those academic departments of occupational and environmental health who depend on commissioned research. HSE was formally the prime commissioner of such external occupational health and safety research.

  We have had concerns over the years at the steadily falling number of medically qualified HSE inspectors and Policy Staff. We remain concerned at the continuing diminution in numbers such that HSE is unlikely to be able to address the highly complex issue of occupational disease and illness causing inability to work. These issues, rather than the more straightforward issues of occupational safety do require medically qualified staff to lead on policy and enforcement and to commission relevant research. We understand that having disestablished the post of Chief Medical Advisor in 2004, HSE is proposing to re-appoint to that role, albeit on a part-time basis. We welcome this. Work for HSE has been not attractive to doctors for a variety of reasons, salary being one of them and we believe this has been compounded by resource limitations.

Faculty of Occupational Medicine

January 2008

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