Diploma of Occupational Medicine (DOccMed)

Authors: Safia Debar 

Publication date:  25 Feb 2009

Who’s it for?

It is aimed mainly at general practitioners who are working or intend to work part time in occupational medicine.

When did you do it?

In my GP registrar year after completing the hospital component of my vocational training scheme.

Why did you do it?

The job market has changed a lot for newly qualified GPs. I wanted to develop a specialist interest which would allow me some variation in my working week. Occupational medicine has several opportunities, and the diploma is becoming essential for any GP wishing to pursue these.

With Dame Carol Black’s recent white paper “Working for a healthier tomorrow” and changes to benefits, occupational medicine is becoming more important and relevant.

It encompasses a considerable amount of GPs’ work and so it is vital to have a good knowledge of how to approach patients with benefits and work related issues and long term sickness certificates.

How much effort did it entail?

It involves attending a diploma training course approved by the faculty (55 hours), which is a prerequisite to sitting the written exam.

Several centres run approved courses. In London, it is the Royal Institute of Public Health. The course provides a good foundation, and the lectures include the clinical aspects of occupational medicine, health surveillance, biological monitoring, toxicology, and health and safety law, as well as two workplace visits.

I attended the course held by the Royal Institute of Public Health. Some of the lectures were not entirely relevant and it was quite tiring as it involved 2 weeks of full day lectures. Overall however, it was a useful course and was helpful preparation for the assessments.

The course fee is currently £1900. The course handouts are useful for revision together with a good textbook. It depends on your revision style and other commitments, but I would allow four to eight weeks to get through the course material and you need to allow time for the portfolio.

Is there an exam?

The assessment is in two parts: a multiple choice paper and a portfolio assessment and oral examination. The multiple choice paper is held at least annually if not twice a year and is roughly 200 questions. The portfolio entails writing up a case report (1500-2000 words) and a workplace visit. The viva is linked to the portfolio.

The pass rate is 70-80%, and you must pass the multiple choice paper before submitting the portfolio. Full guidance is available on the Faculty of Occupational Medicine website.

In total the diploma costs about £800.

Top tips

Try to sit the exams as soon as you can as busy work schedules often take precedence. Decide early if you are going to attempt both in one sitting and organise a workplace visit.

The exam requires an occupational health perspective and so you need to approach it from an occupational physician perspective as it is more than just a clinical specialty.

Also, before deciding to go ahead, think carefully about how and whether you will use it as it is expensive and requires some effort.

Contact for further information

The Faculty of Occupational Medicine of the Royal College of Physicians, 6 St Andrew’s Place, Regent’s Park, London NW1 4LB. Tel 020 7317 5890; fax 020 7317 5899; [Link] .

Was it worth it?

It was definitely worth it. I am now more interested in the interface between health and work. It has also helped me consider other work opportunities.

Competing interests: None declared.

Safia Debar year 4 specialty trainee in academic general practice St George’s, University of London


Cite this as BMJ Careers ; doi: