City University London implemented a change in Occupational Health provider for the start of academic year 2012-13. City believed that its service to new students could be improved by offering an in-house Occupational Health service (previously students had travelled to the provider’s premises), as well as by enabling early identification of issues which required support and adjustments to enable student success. The new process now ensures a consistent and standardised process across all disciplines.
In setting up the service, full discussions with the new provider involved the University’s Occupational Health Doctor, Disability and Mental Health services, as well as academic staff. The Practice Advisory Group was also kept informed of these changes. This thorough preparatory stage ensured that processes were fit for purpose, and worked relatively smoothly from the outset.
The benefits we are now seeing from this change include:
- Thorough and rapid pre-screening during the months before the student starts at City to enable early clearance or else to identify matters which need further investigation and possible adjustments.
- Quicker occupational health screening process for students, including GP information for applicants as deemed necessary by the occupational health provider to occur prior to course commencement.
- Reliable and assured screening of students prior to placement so that Trust partners have confidence in our processes.
- Reduced student attrition due to physical or mental health issues which could have been managed.
A major benefit of the change has been that we have determined that we will ask students to delay starting their course until they are fully fit mentally and physically. The new provider has been given a particular remit to fully explore the mental health of potential students, and to undertake psychiatric reports as necessary. In a small number of cases this has resulted in students being declined on health grounds or asked to defer until they are fully fit. We believe this to be in the best interests of the students as they are much less likely to need to take a break from the course, or withdraw completely, ensuring they have a better experience, and ensuring public money is not wasted through attrition.
We use our Occupational Health provider colleagues to review students on an ongoing basis as they progress through the course when we have concerns. This enables us to get students to step off for a health break, or to be given temporary support to get them through a difficult patch.
Our Occupational Health process is more rigorous than some of our London competitor HEIs. We require students to have their initial Health Questionnaire authorised by their GP because we want to gain as much confidence as we can from the information provided to us, and to enable us to focus our resources on the students most in need.