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Foundation occupational health standards

Published 20 Feb 2020
Written by
Elisabeth Eades BSc (Hons) RN SCPHN-OH CMIOSH
OH Advisor, National Police Wellbeing Service
Reading time
15 mins

Our 'Foundation Occupational Health Standards for Police Forces' is a set of occupational health standards to ensure that health and wellbeing of officers and staff is better supported and there is more consistency across UK policing.

Part 1 - The context

These foundation standards, have been developed with Occupational Health Nurse Advisors to the Police Service (OHNAPS) and the Association of Local Authority Medical Advisors (ALAMA) with the full support of the Faculty of Occupational Medicine (FOM).  

The standards are intended as guidance to establish a benchmark for the structure of occupational health services and put in place the building blocks for services that are more consistent across the country, while still being adaptable to local demand.

We fully recognise that many occupational health services are under pressure to meet the needs of their forces, and we will provide as much support and guidance to forces as we can to help them adopt these standards.

The launch of these standards also complements the psychological risk assessments which allow occupational health teams to provide screening and support to officers and staff in higher risk roles.

The occupational health standards are adaptions of the nationally recognised safe, effective, quality occupational health service (SEQOHS) standards with a policing focus. It is anticipated that ‘enhanced’ and ‘advanced’ standards will be developed in the future for forces wishing to progress beyond basic service provision to become exemplar occupational health (OH) providers.

Development

The development of the ‘Foundation Occupational Health Standards for Police Forces’ was driven by the identified need, referenced in the foreword, to develop underpinning best-practice benchmarks specifically designed for police services. It represents a significant and positive step in contributing to the National Police Wellbeing Service (NPWS) aims.

These foundation standards will provide a solid base on which to build and develop towards enhanced and advanced levels, as clinical and wider governance is developed and introduced in 2020. The FOM’s SEQOHS model was chosen to provide the template from which the foundation standards have been developed as it provides the range of benchmarks that form a good basis for police OH standards. The standards have, however, been adapted to reflect specific aspects of OH services in a policing context, specifically how an OH service might respond in an evolving policing environment.

Guidance notes

1 - Context

1.1. The NPWS is set out against ‘A Common Goal for Police Wellbeing’ announced by the Minister for State for policing in July 2018 and the ‘Policing Vision 2025’ announced at their second joint conference in 2016 by the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners (APCC) and the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC). These goals have been endorsed by all police organisations who have committed to ensuring that by 2025 every member of the police service feels confident that their welfare and wellbeing is being supported by their force, that everyone understands their personal responsibilities, and that a culture supporting this aim is embedded into every force.

1.2. OH services have an important role in the achievement of this goal. OH is a preventative speciality that focuses on the relationship between work and health to promote health, wellbeing, and work ability. Chief Officers in police forces must be confident that their OH services are properly constituted and comply with national standards. In addition, they also need reassurance that investment in OH services will ensure compliance with legislation and meet the challenges of the national wellbeing agenda. All members of the police service need to understand the role of OH in supporting their health needs, how to access it and be confident that the clinical services offered to them are quality assured, consistent and underpinned by the best available evidence.

2 - Background

2.1 Leading up to the launch of NPWS, there was clear evidence that exposure to occupational hazards associated with modern policing is causally linked to the development of ill-health, in particular psychological ill-health. Therefore, steps must be taken to address the known issues. If progress is to be made in addressing this, police forces must have access to specialist occupational health professionals, physicians, and nurses, who will effectively lead and facilitate robust services that are designed to prevent, detect and manage ill-health.

2.2 OH supports the health and wellbeing of members of police services throughout their ‘journey’ from the assessment of fitness at recruitment through the lifecycle of their career, including for a small cohort, management of the ill-health retirement process. It is important that OH provide cost-efficient and effective clinical assessments. For this to happen OH services need to be staffed appropriately with a skill mix to meet the health needs of the organisation. Consideration should be given to locations and equipment required to deliver services. The relationship between OH, the line manager, human resources, and the individual are critically important. Credibility and trust are essential for effective functioning. These five critical areas are addressed in the standards that will be set out for forces and which align to national safe, effective, quality OH services (SEQOHS) standards, which are endorsed by the FOM.

3 - Principles of the occupational health standards

3.1 There are a number of principles that should underpin OH provision, namely:

3.1.1 There should be a strong focus on clinically led evidence based practice.

3.1.2 They should be equitable.

3.1.3 They should be accessible.

3.1.4 They should be impartial.

3.1.5 They should be accountable.

3.1.6 They should be approachable and receptive to both the employer and the users of the services.

3.1.7 An additional key element is innovation, leadership and working in partnership with the organisation to contribute to productivity and organisational effectiveness.

3.2 As previously noted, the standards set out below are grounded in the national quality assurance framework (SEQOHS), set out by the FOM, but also capture the principles of the additional requirements set out for the NHS, mindful that they will need to be a strategic partner in the delivery of an optimised service. Whilst standards can be generic in relation to inputs, processes, and output, it is critical that they reflect the specific circumstances within the police which sets them aside from other service industries. In addition, the standards must also reflect the principles of the Blue Light Wellbeing Framework (BLWF), in particular, a tiered approach to reflect the evolution of services over a period of time and these foundation standards will be developed and enhanced to reflect this in due course (see section five).

4 - The occupational health standards

4.1 OH standards for the police are grouped in the following categories:

4.1.1 Business probity. This includes conducting services with integrity and maintaining financial propriety.

4.1.2 Information governance. This includes maintenance of clinical records and client confidentiality.

4.1.3 People. This includes competencies of clinical staff and clinical governance.

4.1.4 Facilities and equipment. This includes providing facilities and equipment that is safe and appropriate for the services provided.

4.1.5 Relationships with the organisation. This includes engagement with the organisation regarding assessing health needs and interactions with the organisation as an in-house service or a provider.

4.1.6 Relationships with workers. This includes engagement with everyone employed within the organisation to ensure that fairness, respect, and involvement is promoted and maintained.

5 - Development of police occupational health tiers of service

5.1 Foundation. The ‘Foundation Occupational Health Standards for Police Forces’ articulated here represent the core level which will become the basic mandatory standard of services that all forces will be expected to deliver by 2021. Only these standards are captured in this document.

5.2 Enhanced. The ‘Enhanced Occupational Health Standards for Police Forces’ are under development and will be able to be achieved by OH services that demonstrate additional elements of prevention, detection, and rehabilitation consistent with the aims of NPWS. It is anticipated that the majority of forces should be able to achieve this level by 2025.

5.3 Advanced. The ‘Advanced Occupational Health Standards for Police Forces’ remain aspirational and are also in development. It is envisaged that these OH standards will be achieved by forces that wish to be seen as exemplars and position themselves in the vanguard of policing wellbeing capability development, delivery, and assurance.

6 - Guidance for completion

6.1 With support from the Home Office, the NPWS is seeking to accelerate change across wellbeing support to the police. Therefore, foundation OH standards for the categories outlined above have been developed in consultation with key strategic stakeholders and will form part of the BLWF in due course. When directed, forces will be requested to complete these as part of the self-assessment process in order to ensure that wellbeing is embedded and to provide opportunity for peer support and NPWS assistance for forces that request it.

Initially, self-assessment will be against these ‘Foundation Occupational Health Standards for Police Forces’. As wellbeing initiatives and OH support programmes become embedded across police forces then the ‘Enhanced Occupational Health Standards for Police Forces’ and ‘Advanced Occupational Health Standards for Police Forces’ currently in development, will be published and forces will have an opportunity to self-assess their OH service beyond the core level; thus allowing forces judging themselves as ‘Fully Developed’ to gain enhanced and advanced status and recognition for their efforts in wellbeing support.

6.2 When required, it is expected that the assessment of the standards will be coordinated by the same personnel responsible for current BLWF reporting in forces with guidance from the head of the OH service, whether they are an in-house or contracted asset.

6.3 Each category carries an explanation in detail and examples of the type of evidence that is required.

6.4 There may be some areas where a force cannot meet a standard, such as some forces do not provide in-house vaccinations and therefore these standards will not apply; however, there should be evidence that the force is monitoring any outsourced provision.

6.5 Results will not be published and there will be no ‘league table’; the ultimate aim of this initiative is to support continuous improvement in OH services across policing in England and Wales. Where forces have assessed themselves as ‘Underdeveloped’ key stakeholders standby to be engaged further and provide direction, guidance, and assistance in order to enable them to achieve compliance with the ‘Foundation Occupational Health Standards for Police Forces’.

6.6 This guidance will be reviewed, amended and communicated as required to ensure that all forces are given the opportunity to continue the development of their OH services for the benefit of their police officers and staff.

Part 2 - Foundation standards for police forces

The full standards are available in table format as a pdf document, you can access them below:

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