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HMPPS Employee Health - Occupational Health and Ill Health Retirement Services - Information for HMPPS employees
Occupational Health Services

Occupational Health

Getting the best out of Occupational Health Services

What you need to know

HMPPS values its staff and is committed to maintaining a high standard of health and safety.

Through the provision of occupational health (OH) and employee assistance services, we help our staff to protect their health, support regular attendance at work, effectively control work-related health risks, and promote good health.

Optima Health, a third party supplier, deliver Occupational Health Services to HMPPS. This arrangement means that assessments are independent and impartial, based on medical evidence, and not biased in favour of the employee or HMPPS.

To get the best out of OH services, with your consent, HMPPS managers first need to make a “good” referral using Optima Health’s online myOHportal system. A “good” referral will provide:

  • The reason for the referral, with any relevant detail.
  • Your manager’s and/or your concerns about your ability to carry out your role.
  • Any adjustments/support mechanisms that can be put in place to help.

What to expect from OH

There are different types of Optima Health practitioner:

  • OHA – Occupational Health Advisor (Qualified Nurse with a specialism in Occupational Health)
  • MHA – Mental Health Advisor (Qualified Counsellor with a specialism in Occupational Health)
  • OHP – Occupational Health Physician (Qualified Doctor with a specialism in Occupational Health)
  • OT – Occupational Therapist (Qualified practitioner in a specific area of Occupational Health)
  • Physiotherapist
  • Registered Immunisation Nurse

The role of the OH practitioner is to consult with you to:

  • Assess the relationship between your health and work.
  • Provide medical advice to you and signpost you to any helpful work focused health interventions that may support you to remain in work, or to return to work where appropriate (for example to counselling, other Employee Assistance Services, physiotherapy).
  • Provide advice to management in a written report on whether you are fit for work.
  • Provide advice to you on how to manage health problems related to work (for example working with Display Screen Equipment) and recommend workplace adjustments to the line manager.
  • May recommend consideration of more specialist assessments for more complex medical conditions.
  • If work duties are affected, Optima Health provide to advice management on whether any impairment is likely to be short term, long term or permanent.
  • Detail any specific rehabilitation plan, if appropriate, with clear timescales.
  • Advice to management regarding disability in accordance with the Equality Act 2010.

What the OH practitioner cannot do is:

  • Give a ‘second opinion’ about an illness or condition, or diagnose one.
  • Reveal the diagnosis of a condition to management without the employee’s consent.
  • Predict absence patterns or an exact number of days absence for any given condition or combination of conditions.
  • Definitively say whether or not disability in a legal sense would apply, although OH can advise if it is likely or not that it would apply.
  • Say whether or not an adjustment is reasonable (as this is a decision for management to make), but OH can suggest what potential reasonable adjustments may assist the employee.

Deciding whether a referral to Occupational Health is appropriate

A referral to Occupational Health, via the myOHportal online system, can be made at any time if your line manager, or you as an employee, are concerned about the impact your health may have on your performance or attendance. Advice from OH can help your manager identify how HMPPS can support you. Within the sickness absence policy, there are two mandatory OH referral triggers. These are:

  1. When absence is due to psychological ill health
  2. When absence is due to musculoskeletal problems

Outside of these mandatory referral triggers (a and b above), line managers have the discretion to make a referral as appropriate.

All the scientific evidence shows that early intervention to try to resolve problems reduces the risk of long-term sickness absence and helps protect employee health.


Who you should contact to discuss your OH referral, consultation or report:

  • Your line manager
  • Your HRBP

How to contact Optima Health:

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