As an OH Nurse Consultant, I am passionate about transforming public health practice and promoting evidence, research, and good practice among my peers. I was, honoured to represent iOH, (the Association of Occupational Health and Wellbeing Professionals), at the committee meeting on the 16th of November.
The Committee, established in June 2021, looks at the Scottish Government’s policies on welfare, poverty and homelessness, the social security system in Scotland and social justice, scrutinising the impact of the budget on these issues. I, on behalf of iOH, authored a briefing paper and provided evidence to the committee, based on my expertise and insights, as an autonomous public health practitioner, on the Scottish Employment Injuries Advisory Council Bill (SEAIC). The members’ bill, introduced in June 2023, is to create a Scottish Employment Injury Advisory Council.
The opportunity to learn how public health is perceived and managed, from committee members and other participating academics, activists, policymakers, and practitioners was significant. The committee’s support was second to none and I was guided by the committee’s Assistant Clerk through the bill’s summary document, the purpose of the committee and my role as guest adviser.
I was sent the guide for witnesses including some helpful hints on virtual/hybrid meetings and briefing papers a week before the actual event. This was followed by a meeting preparation with the broadcasting team, using the actual committee remote video link, a few days before the committee itself.
They say if you need something doing, you should ask a busy person, and as such a person, I was up till 2 am checking my facts. On the morning of the meeting, I logged on at 8 am to be ready for the 9 am start, making sure the iOH logo was sitting at the top right. A nervous start found me talking too fast! I heard my mentor, Carol Cholerton, on my shoulder, reminding me it was OK to take a breath and gather my thoughts. I soon found myself warming to the situation and finding my passion and flow.
My fellow contributor (Professor Ewan MacDonald) was graceful enough to refer to my ideas which was advocating a new injuries benefit system, led by the multi-disciplinary team on the ground, who see symptoms before they have become a syndrome or disease. I saw this as an opportunity to advocate for Scotland piloting a new and improved management strategy for occupational disease. This would influence equity and parity of health protection and ill-health prevention for all workers, regardless of their circumstances. My final call was for a symptom reporting system that employers would not fear. This could enable real health protection and disease prevention, as we learned and developed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Our medical colleagues could then deliver specialist diagnostic and health protection services for those individuals working with emerging exposures or individual vulnerabilities to occupational disease.
Would I do it again? Absolutely.
I believe that occupational health and wellbeing professionals have a lot to offer to the social justice and social security debate in Scotland and deliver more effective health monitoring and evidence to inform research. I hope that our input will help shape the policies and practices that will benefit the people of Scotland.
You can watch the meeting and my contributions on Scottish Parliament TV. If you are interested in learning more about the work of the Committee, you can visit its website or watch its meetings online. If you are an occupational health and wellbeing professional and want to join iOH, you can learn more about its benefits and membership on the website.
Lucy Kenyon | Linkedin
(FRSPH, M.Med.Sc., ICertOH, SCPHN), Trustee, Non-Executive Director, and Past President
Lucy is a health advocate and entrepreneur, who has dedicated her career to occupational and organisational health. She focuses her work on the quality of working life, minimising business risk and optimising business health. She and her colleague Tracey Hudson will soon be launching their bespoke service for SME employers online to increase access to occupational health and develop the knowledge and understanding of occupational function, impairment and reasonable adjustments.