Audit of pre-employment assessments by occupational health departments in the national health service

S. Whitaker, T. C. Aw

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)


Pre-employment health assessment of applicants to the National Health Service (NHS) is one of the functions of occupational health departments in the NHS. This paper describes the results of a process and outcome audit of this activity, concentrating on the current practice of occupational health departments. The audit was carried out by 40 NHS occupational health units who provided information on a standard questionnaire on all pre-employment assessments undertaken over a three-month period. This produced 9139 questionnaire returns. The analysis showed that the most common method of assessment was the use of a self-administered questionnaire alone (49.4%). A self-administered questionnaire followed by a nurse interview as standard practice was the next most common method (34.1%), but referral to a physician was uncommon. The outcome of the assessments for 98% of all applicants was 'fit for work'. A total of 120 individuals (1.3%) were assessed as 'fit to work, but with some restriction' and 65 individuals (0.7%) were considered 'unfit'. The most common reasons for rejection were abnormal body mass index (40%), skin conditions (21.5%) and psychiatric conditions (10.8%). The most common reasons for restriction were musculoskeletal conditions (27.5%), skin conditions (15%) and abnormal body mass index and psychiatric conditions (both 10.8%). The audit identified wide variation between occupational health departments in the NHS in the practice of restriction and rejection. A decision on the value of pre-employment assessment in the NHS must take into consideration the ability of the process to achieve its aim, the time and manpower involved in the process, and the probability of low restriction and rejection rates. These factors should be balanced against the potential risk to the employee, colleagues and the public if allowed into employment. A common standardized approach to pre-employment assessment should be considered by occupational health departments in the NHS.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)75-80
Number of pages6
JournalOccupational Medicine
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 1995
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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