What to expect during an Occupational Health meeting
Occupational health is an area of healthcare that specialises in the relationship between health and work, specifically the effects of work on health, and the effects of ill health or disability on capacity to work.
Our business, Occupational Health Assessment, provides an independent service to help businesses support their staff and to manage their health risks. The costs of providing our services are borne by the employer, not the employee.
Before a consultation, the assessing clinician will have received a referral form from the employer. The referral form states the reason for making a referral to an independent medical service, any background to the situation (for example, a sickness absence record) and usually a brief description of any role and responsibilities.
An employer usually has specific questions they would like answered about someone’s health, for example, whether an underlying medical condition is present, an indication of when an employee may be able to return to work (if they’re currently absent) and guidance about how best to support the person at work.
As in all types of medical practice, occupational health clinicians are bound by medical confidentiality. All medical information provided during any assessment is confidential and can only be given to a third party, including an employer, with informed consent. Similarly, the records help about any discussions are kept securely and in the strictest confidence.
At the start of an assessment process the written consent of the employee will be required, indicating that they are happy to have the assessment. We take care of all the consent steps in the assessment process, as a service courtesy to our clients.
By signing the consent form, employees are giving consent for an Occupational Health clinician to process their personal information, including recording personal and medical information, on a computer system, which is held securely. The system is ISO accredited, HIPAA, SOC2/3, GDPR and FISC certified.
Can employees refuse to be assessed?
Employees can refuse to be assessed, however, it is important to consider that without consent to an assessment, clinicians will be unable to give any advice on any condition to the employer, which in turn may mean the employer needs to make decisions in a vacuum. This often ultimately has a bearing on any management decisions and an employer can demonstrate that they have tried to act fairly during their decision making process.
If you an employee is unhappy with the process, they can withdraw consent to participate, at any time. In such circumstances, we will always inform the employer, although we will never share the specific reason for consent being withdrawn. In these circumstances, the employer would consequently then make any management decisions without any advice from an occupational health expert.
In providing consent an employee agrees for the clinician to hold records and personal information on our systems. Only medical practitioners can view any records and an employer will never be allowed to see them.
What happens after the meeting?
A report summarising the assessment and answering any specific questions from an employer will be sent to the referring manager following the assessment. During the consultation, the clinician will take a detailed clinical history addressing:
- a history of any presenting condition
- an assessment of normal daily capabilities
- an insight into any extenuating factors at work
- an overview of any prescriptions, medications or treatments underway
- a summary of the different treatment options that may be available
- an assessment of any lifestyle factors which may affect an ability to work
From the information covered during an assessment, the clinician is able to conclude their opinions and suggest recommendations to both the employee and the employer. To confirm their advice it may be necessary, with consent, to write to a GP or treating specialist to obtain further information.
In these circumstances, individual rights under the Access to Medical Records Act 1988 are triggered.
An employee always has the right to see a report from a GP or treating specialist before it is sent to an assessing occupational health clinician. Employees have 21 days to view any report, after which time the GP or treating specialist will normally release the information.
If an employee agrees to the clinician approaching their doctor or specialist, which happens in about 5% of all our cases, they’ll always be asked to sign a separate consent form. Towards the end of the assessment the clinician will always also give a clear indication of what information will be included in the report. Sometimes the reports are dictated in front of the employee, to ensure there is transparency and clarity in the process.
Individual consent is obtained again stating the employee is happy with the likely content of the report. Employees can indicate one of the following:
- if they do not wish to see the report before it is sent
- if they wish to see the report at the same time as their employer
- if they do you wish to see the report before it is sent to their employer
Can the reports be changed by an employee?
If an employee wishes to suggest amendments to a report it is important to note that only factual information can be changed and not the opinion of the assessing clinician. Simply not liking the clinicians’ opinion is not a valid basis for asking for the report to be changed.
The entire occupational health assessment process is transparent and is designed to give professional advice to help support both the employer and the employee. There is never any reason to feel threatened by the assessment process and the vast majority of people find the chance to discuss their health and obtain independent advice incredibly helpful.
Reports to employers never contain any unnecessary medical or social information. They are always clear, comprehensive, objective and impartial. An occupational health practitioner provides medical opinions and advice to an employer – what they employer does with the advice is entirely at their discretion.
If an employee wishes to gain access to their medical information at any time, they can always do so by submitting a Subject Access Request in writing to the assessing practitioner. Please note, employees will always need to prove their identity before we can release any information.