Our Ref: HSR/1/19
Head Office Circular: NP/257/21
20th July 2021
To: The Secretary
NETWORK RAIL MEDICALS
Your South West Midlands Branch submitted the following resolution:
From the 1 April 2021, Network Rail have extended the contract for Optima Health through to Oct 2023. With this extension has come a change to the current medical regime for PTS holding staff.
Previously the time scales for recall were 10 years (under 40’s), 6 years (under 50’s), 5 years (under 60’s), then decreasing to 1-2 years depending on underlying medical conditions for anyone over 60.
Under the new guidance all safety critical staff will now be recalled for medicals every 3 years.
In order to get staff in for a medical during this contract extension OH & NR have decided to call staff in early for medicals
• Employees medical expiries within 1-3 years will be seen in year 1
• Employees medical expiries within 4-5 years will be seen in year 2
• Employees medical expiries within 6-10 years will be seen in year 3
• Exceptions are made for employees with annual recalls
This is a huge rise in staff attending medicals and with a cost of £500+ per person, per medical, it is a huge payday for Optima Health between now and October 2023, not to mention the additional consulting fees involved to return a member of staff back to the workplace.
As well as attending the more frequent medicals, additional testing for staff has also been introduced including having your feet measured (Boot FIT) and new Cardiac Risk Scoring (CRS).
CRS has already had a detrimental effect on staff and staffing. We are seeing staff being told they have failed their medical due to the new scoring, e.g. blood pressure issues, who have been immediately taken off safety critical duties, many of these are non-trackside staff such as Signallers based in Signalling centres and Signalboxes.
A similar Cardiac Risk Scoring was used by BUPA in the early 2000’s which led to Signalboxes being understaffed, causing additional stress and workloads for other staff as well as a large loss in earnings for staff taken off duty. While we will always welcome staff being advised of issues to their health, which in turn can be addressed with them and their GP, staff are then having to wait weeks to get additional meetings with OH to get permission to return to duty once passed fit by the Doctor.
The new medical, although being trumpeted in Network Rail’s briefing document to Managers as “Better health for all staff” is mandatory only for PTS holding staff and voluntary for all other staff.
With the announcement of the recent White Paper introducing GB Rail, RMT’s understanding is the GB Rail White Paper will drastically reduce the amount of trackside staff (Maintenance, P-Way etc.) this could give Network Rail a huge opportunity to shed staff under the guise of medical issues in the run up to GB Rail coming online.
This Branch would like to understand if the RMT NEC is aware of this and if not, we would ask them to review with Network Rail why this hasn’t been communicated in advance. We would like the new additions to the Medical to be assessed as medically necessary by an independent medical expert, especially with regards to the Cardiac Risk Scoring element and if the introduction of a 3 yearly medical is indeed warranted, which we see as a possible covert attack on jobs for PTS/Ontrack staff.
I also received correspondence from Paddington No. 1 Branch, as follows:
I am writing to raise concerns from members of RMT Paddington No.1 Branch concerning Network Rail's Occupational Health provision.
From April 2021 Network Rail moved to a new 'Health, Safety and Wellbeing medical' provided by Optima Health.
Network Rail has set out for staff that the new medical is "more comprehensive and will combine general health & wellbeing, mental health, boot fit assessment, cardiac risk scoring, as well as all required surveillance checks due within that financial year. The medical will take approximately 2 hours and includes up to 15 medical assessments, some of which will be screened based on inherent role risks (e.g. HAVS surveillance screen for employees using vibrating tools) and others are voluntary (e.g. Cholesterol screen etc.)."
In the view of Paddington No.1 branch this new medical includes inappropriate, intrusive and/or irrelevant questions. We note that the new medical questionnaires have not been agreed with this union. We request that this matter is placed before the NEC for urgent advice to our members on what further action our union is taking to protect our members from intrusive and unnecessary questioning from Network Rail Occupational Health provision.
Considering the resolution and correspondence, your National Executive Committee, at its meeting on 15th July, noted and adopted the following report from its Health and Safety Sub-committee:
We note the resolution from our South West Midlands Branch and correspondence from Paddington Number 1 Branch.
We instruct the General Secretary to arrange a meeting with Network Rail to discuss problems relating to the Optima Health Contract and to report back on this issue to the NEC.
The General Secretary is further instructed to prepare a list of items to be discussed at this meeting.
Additionally, the General Secretary is instructed to change the name of the file to “Network Rail Medicals”.
I am acting in accordance with these instructions.
Please bring the contents of this circular to the attention of relevant members.