NHS England has written to GP practices asking them to complete risk assessments for at-risk staff within four weeks, including those from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds.
It said practices need to 'make significant progress' on the assessents 'within the next two weeks and complete them – at least for all staff in at-risk groups – within four weeks'.
The letter also said NHS England has commissioned occupational health service support for primary care services that 'may be via a local NHS trust occupational health department or an independent occupational health provider'.
Practices, who 'remain legally responsible' for occupational health risk assessments, should work with commissioners and PCNs to ensure capacity for occupational health services meets demand at the present time, the letter added.
It comes as earlier this month, the BMA called for GPs to have ‘urgent’ access to occupational health services to support Covid-19 risk assessments in practices.
The letter, signed by NHS England primary care medical director Dr Nikki Kanani, chief people officer Prerana Issar and chief operating officer Amanda Pritchard, further asked practices to publish data on their risk assessment process to date.
- Number of staff risk-assessed and percentage of whole workforce.
- Number of BAME staff risk assessments completed and percentage of total risk assessments completed and of whole workforce.
- Percentage of staff risk-assessed by staff group.
- Additional mitigation over and above the individual risk assessments in settings where infection rates are highest.
The information must be available to all staff and receive ‘scrutiny and ownership’ from senior GP partners, the letter said.
It added: ‘We recognise the sensitive nature of conversations around individual health and wellbeing. But these conversations must take account of the urgency with which we have to ensure our colleagues’ safety.’
The letter signposted to previous guidance but added that providers can use ‘customised tools developed locally with their BAME networks’.
It reiterated that practices should work together in their PCNs to ‘manage any impact on staffing levels to meet anticipated demand and maintain services’.
It followed an update to the GP standard operating procedures which said practices should ensure they risk assess all staff, including those from BAME backgrounds, in order 'to consider if they should see patients face to face'.
And earlier this week, NHS England warned that GP practices should review their Covid-19 business continuity plans, taking into account potentially ‘high levels’ of staff absences and the full closure of premises in the event of local outbreaks.
Examples of good practice in individual risk assessment deployment:
- Understanding the role of workplace assessment alongside individual risk assessments
- Creating a strategic risk stratification of the workforce – to target those at increased vulnerability first
- Working across the ICS/STP and with PCNs to • Clear direction that this is an organisational priority by the leadership team, including CEO ownership and making it a standing item at board meetings (or equivalent in other settings)
- Consistent messaging through all channels on the availability of risk assessments
- Co-production with local BAME networks
- All staff briefings, online training, and support sessions for line managers in deploying high quality risk assessments
- Creating a crib sheet for line managers on having conversations on risk assessments
- Ensuring OH services are adequately resourced to provide appropriate levels of support and that line managers know how to access this in all settings
- Using online and/or smartphone-enabled risk assessments to achieve better adoption
- Co-locating risk assessment meetings with staff facilities (eg staff rooms) or COVID-19 testing sites
- Setting dedicated days in the week for risk assessments
- Creating trained risk assessment helpers within organisations.
Source: NHS England letter to GP practices, 24 June