Auditors were so impressed by a local authority’s work to help its workforce stay healthy that they took the unprecedented step of making no recommendations for improvement following a recent inspection.
Every five years the Durham County Council Occupational Health Team is assessed for the Safe and Effective Quality Occupational Health Service (SEQOHS) external quality mark.
This year they again successfully proved that they meet rigorously high standards in all of the six key areas:
• Business probity, conducting their business with integrity and maintaining financial propriety
• Information governance, maintaining clinical records to high standards, implementing systems which are correctly accessed, stored and disposed of, and protecting confidentiality
• People, ensuring that occupational health staff are competent and qualified to undertake their duties
• Ensuring that facilities and equipment are safe, accessible and appropriate and that medicines are handled correctly
• Relationships with purchasers, dealing fairly and ethically with purchasers and being customer-focussed
• Relationships with workers, ensuring that all service users are treated fairly, respectfully and professionally and involving them in decisions about their care
After submitting a thorough portfolio of evidence and undergoing a site audit visit including interviews, the assessors congratulated the team in a number of areas. They also made no recommendations for improvement, which is unprecedented in the auditor’s history.
The occupational health team offers independent advice and support to employees and managers on matters relating to the effects of health on work and work on health. Services are available to all staff at Durham County Council and local authority maintained schools in the county, as well as various other regional councils and the majority of County Durham’s academies.
The team of 11 full and part time staff provide a wide range of services including:
• Conducting pre-employment assessments, fitness to work assessments and ill health retirement applications
• Immunising and inoculating staff against occupationally acquired viruses
• Running health surveillance screening programmes to check the risk to staff of developing conditions such as hand arm vibration syndrome and hearing loss
• Signposting to free physiotherapy, emotional support and counselling services
Kevin Lough, Durham County Council’s occupational health and safety manager, said: “It is essential that we keep our workforce healthy, both physically and mentally, especially in the modern workplace.
“We strive to protect and promote our employees’ wellbeing and it is fantastic to receive recognition for our work. We are always looking at ways to improve the way we work, so for auditors to tell us there is no way we could do any better is massively rewarding.
“I’d like to thank the occupational health team for their dedication to providing a quality service and the great deal of effort they have invested to achieve this ‘gold standard’.”