Howthe Northern Ireland Civil Service Occupational Health Service became the firstOH department in Northern Ireland to pick up a prestigious award, by PatriciaMcQuillanInDecember 2002, the Northern Ireland Civil Service (NICS) Occupational HealthService (OHS) became the first group within the Northern Ireland Department ofHealth, Social Services and Public Safety (DHSSPS) to achieve a Steps toExcellence quality award.TheOHS is a branch within the public health, medical and allied group of DHSSPSand provides a comprehensive OH service to all NICS departments and associatedagencies – approximately 30,000 employees.Justover half of the employees are men, with women predominating in the junioradministration grades, with one-third of staff aged over 45.Almost30 per cent of employees work in clerical posts, with 20 per cent insupervisory and management and 19 per cent in professional and technicalgrades. Prison officers account for 10 per cent of employees, industrialsnumber around 3,000, typists and miscellaneous posts form a small percentageand just over 250 staff are employed in senior administration posts.Medicaladvisory services are provided to a range of non-departmental and statutorypublic bodies. These include: civil service, teachers, and health servicepension schemes and medical advice on driver licensing for the Driver andVehicle Licensing Agency Northern Ireland.TheNICS OHS is a multidisciplinary organisation comprising medical, nursing andadministrative staff.DrKen Addley, director, heads up the team, with four part-time and three full-timemedical officers, one senior OH nurse specialist, five OH nurse specialists anda medical suite nurse.TheNICS chief welfare officer post sits within OHS, as does the workplace healthimprovement programme co-ordinator post. In addition, there is a team of 12administrators.Staffare experienced and highly-trained in either occupational medicine, nursing,health and safety, health promotion, financial management or administration.Workof the OHSThemain work of OHS includes giving OH advice and support to NICSdepartments/agencies.Thisincludes recruitment and placement assessments; sickness absence and return towork guidance; recommending rehabilitation and Disability Discrimination Act(DDA) adjustments after illness/injury; carrying out ill health retirementassessments and conducting a range of health surveillance and special jobfitness assessments. OHS is also involved in providing OH and health policyguidance.Theunit also takes the lead in the NICS workplace health improvement programme andruns a lifestyle and physical activity assessment (LPAA) programme on afull-time basis.TheLPAA programme is the key health promotion initiative delivered by OHS forcivil service departments and agencies and is based on the Fitech System, acomputerised, scientifically-validated system. To date, more than 6,000assessments have been carried out.Afollow-up research programme, measuring the impact the programme has onaffecting and maintaining lifestyle changes six months on, has been carriedout, and the findings published in a reputable medical journal.Theprogramme also won joint third prize in the 1999 UK Fitech/Occupational HealthSafety and Environment Awards.OHScontinues to carry out research in OH and workplace health promotion. Inaddition, OHS is a validated unit for training occupational medical and nursingprofessionals.QualityawardNorthernIreland Quality Awards Steps to Excellence scheme is a recognition programmefor Northern Ireland public sector organisations, to be assessed against theEuropean Foundation Quality Management (EFQM) Business Excellence Model. Thescheme has been designed by the Northern Ireland Centre for Competitiveness,and encourages the pursuit of excellence throughout the public sector.1OHSinitially committed to the programme in August 2001 and the first stage was tocomplete a comprehensive submission document outlining how the organisation hadaddressed the nine criteria of the EFQM Excellence Model.2 Workto compile the formal submission was taken forward by an in-housemultidisciplinary team, comprising a medical officer, a nurse and twoadministrative staff.Theteam quickly recognised the major commitment and effort required tosuccessfully complete such a project within the allotted timescale.Alot of hard work went into putting together the 79-page submission, which wasvery focussed, tracing the history of OHS from 1993 and highlighting the manyimprovement initiatives introduced since then.Thedocument also contained a diverse range of trend data covering areas such asperformance results; staff attitude, customer satisfaction ratings and so on,and highlighted how OHS was performing against each of the nine EFQM ExcellenceModel criteria.Thesubmission was invaluable in helping the team of external assessors gain a morein-depth understanding of the role that OHS performs in supporting NICSorganisations and staff.Acomprehensive portfolio of evidence containing key documents such as businessplans, annual reports and so on was also made available to the externalassessors.Throughoutthe process, all members of OHS staff were kept informed of progress throughmonthly team briefing sessions as well as specially-arranged awarenesspresentations. Some members of staff were also given a copy of the finalsubmission document.Thesubmission was forwarded to the NI Centre for Competitiveness in September 2002and was analysed by a team of trained external, independent assessors whovisited OHS in November 2002.KenAddley, the OHS director, and the OHS management team, delivered a presentationoutlining the broad range of services offered by OHS; the challenges faced bythe organisation and how it was responding.Theassessors carried out detailed interviews with eight members of staff as wellas speaking informally with others. The visit ended with a further in-depthdiscussion with the director and management team. Afterthe visit, the assessors presented their findings to a separate panel of judgesin the Centre for Competitiveness who decided on the level of recognition, ifany, to be given.Thereare three levels: bronze, silver or gold. Each level relates to the number ofpoints allocated through the assessment process.Adetailed feedback report outlining the organisation’s performance against theEFQM model including comments highlighting strengths and areas for improvementwas also given to each participating organisation.Onreceiving the gold award, Addley said: “OHS staff can feel justifiably proud ofthis achievement and I would like to thank everyone for their contribution tothis success.“Thisaward is recognition for many years of hard work by staff at all levels whohave helped OHS develop into an organisation associated with continuousimprovement.”Headded: “By applying for recognition, we have gained an impartial, externalperspective on how the organisation is performing and we shall continue tobuild on our strengths and look for ways to enhance the service we provide.“Butit doesn’t end there – we need to continue to unite with staff and clientgroups to build on this success.“Icongratulate all my staff for their hard work over many years which hascontributed to and been reflected in achieving this award – it is anendorsement of our commitment to multidisciplinary teamworking”.Thequality journeyVariousgovernment initiatives in the early 1990s encouraged the public sector to adopta more business-like approach and become more performance and customer focused.Thisacted as a change agent for our department, leading to a review of itsorganisational structure with the aim of becoming more efficient and effective,better able to meet the requirement of its customers.Aboard was set up in 1994 to fulfil a strategic management role and oversee theoperation of the OHS on behalf of the NICS. Business goals were defined,performance feedback assessed and staff provided with defined areas ofresponsibility and accountability.AnOHS management team was established representing the three disciplines withinOHS, medicine, nursing and administration, and acts as a steering group dealingwith operational issues, quality control and financial management.Since1994, considerable efforts have been made within OHS to improve all aspects ofthe organisation including: streamlining work processes; securing manpower;developing multidisciplinary teams with varied and designated responsibilities,and managing information through a bespoke IT system. Acontinuous improvement programme was launched for all of NICS in 1995. OHSmanagement saw this as a further opportunity to build on the good work alreadydone in-house and fully embraced this service-wide initiative, recognising thatimportant issues still needed to be addressed in the quest for quality andeffective teamwork. Thekey elements to be addressed by OHS to achieve quality and effective teamworkusing continuous improvement principles were: –Improving communication with customers–Introducing and validating organisational performance and customer satisfactionmeasures–Creating client focused teams–Addressing staff development issues –Putting in place mechanisms to monitor and review all activities Detailsof some of the key issues and how they were taken forward are:–Communication with clientsAnOHS user group was set up in December 1994. This is a customer liaison forumthat aims to help establish and maintain OHS responsive to the user needs in anatmosphere of mutual co-operation. The group meets quarterly.–Organisational performance and customer satisfaction measuresCustomersatisfaction measures were introduced, based on the concept of defining whocustomers are, what they want, how those demands are to be met by the serviceand how that process is evaluated and improved.Havingidentified our customers, we then had to consider those areas of performancethat were key to our success. They were operational and financial performance;customer satisfaction and staff development.TheOHS User Group in its role as a customer liaison forum in consultation with ourmanagement team and with the agreement of the OHS board, were and areinstrumental in developing and validating the key organisational performanceand customer satisfaction measures.–Client-focused multidisciplinary teamsFollowingdiscussion with customers, the work of the unit was reorganised to introducedefined responsibility areas.Thesewere seen as having a number of benefits, including giving ownership of work,empowerment and ongoing continuity to specific individual members of the OHSteam.–Staff developmentGettingthe best from employees was further enhanced with the creation of a staffdevelopment policy.Itaims to provide all members of the team with access to opportunities to developtheir skills in line with the competencies of their post; a means to recogniseand develop their potential; the opportunity to be fully involved in the workof the OHS and to contribute to meeting its business objectives by producingwork of the highest standard.Havingintroduced a range of improvement initiatives, OHS was keen to find some way ofmeasuring what the organisation had achieved, with a view to consolidatingstrengths and highlighting further areas for improvement. The Steps toExcellence programme offered that facility.ConclusionHasit been all worth it? Simply, yes. Our customers tell us they are satisfied andwe now have external validation of what we do. However, despite achieving thegold award, OHS recognises that it cannot be complacent and work is alreadyunder way to take on board recommendations for improvement identified in thefeedback report.OHScommends this process to others and is happy to share its experience.PatriciaMcQuillan RGN, OHN, BSc(Hons)References:1.Steps to Excellence, NI Centre for Competitiveness, Belfast2.European Foundation for Quality Management, Brusselswww.cforc.orgwww.efqm.org Previous Article Next Article Setting the standardOn 1 Jul 2003 in Personnel Today Comments are closed. Related posts:No related photos.