Occupational health provision in UK universities

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BackgroundVery few studies have been done of occupational health provision across an entire employment sector and universities are particularly understudied. The British government published updated guidance on university occupational health in 2006.AimTo describe the occupational health services to all the universities in the UK.MethodsAll 117 universities in the UK were included. Detailed surveys were carried out in 2002, 2003 and 2004 requesting self-completed information from each university occupational health service. This paper presents information on general characteristics of the service, staffing, services provided and outcome reporting.ResultsThere was variation in the type of occupational health provision; half the universities had an in-house occupational health service, 32% used a contractor, 9% relied on the campus primary care or student health service and 9% had ad hoc or no arrangements. In all, 93 of the 117 (79%) universities responded to the detailed questionnaire, the response rate being higher from in-house services and from larger universities. There was a wide variation in staffing levels but the average service was small, staffed by one full-time nurse with one half-day of doctor time per week and a part-time clerical or administrative member of staff. A range of services was provided but, again, there was wide variation between universities.ConclusionsIt is unclear if the occupational health provision to universities is proportional to their needs. The wide variation suggests that some universities may have less adequate services than others.

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