Perception and provision of occupational health services in the UK

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BackgroundThere is difficulty in defining occupational health services among stakeholders of the service. Concurrently, there are concerns about the state of occupational health provision in the UK.AimsTo determine stakeholders’ perception of the services that occupational health encompasses and the level as well as the rationale behind the provision of these services.MethodsThe research was undertaken as a postal questionnaire survey of the FTSE 350 companies and selected public sector organizations in the UK. This was followed up by telephone calls to a random selection of non-respondents to obtain non-respondent data.ResultsThere is a difference in opinion among managers and occupational health professionals about the services provided by occupational health. Taking into account non-respondent data to partially adjust for overestimation biases, the level of provision of occupational health services among the FTSE 350 companies is 69% and in public sector organizations is 95%, giving an average provision of 72%. Sixteen per cent of respondents thought there was a trend towards outsourcing of services. The most frequently cited reason for provision of an occupational health service was that it was for the benefit of employees.ConclusionsThere remains room for improvement in the level of occupational health services provision in large UK private sector organizations. By bridging the gap between the different stakeholders’ perceptions of the remit and benefits of the service, a higher level of provision in the private sector similar to that of public sector organizations can be achieved.

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