Doctors needed in occupational health
Publication date: 26 Aug 2009
More doctors need to consider a career in occupational health, according to a report from Royal Mail Group’s chief medical adviser, Steve Boorman, on the health and wellbeing of NHS staff.
“If the NHS is going to rise to the challenge of this review, then there is a resource gap there that needs to be filled,” Dr Boorman told BMJ Careers.
A survey of existing occupational health provision in the NHS showed that some 45% of the staff from the units responding to the survey were nurses, and only 12% were doctors.
Consultants and nurses in occupational health tended to be older than those working in other specialties. This could mean that staff are attracted into the specialty later in life or that there are difficulties in recruiting younger staff, says the report.
Dr Boorman says he is worried about the low number of consultants in occupational health and that they are thinly distributed around the country.
“Not all occupational health units employ suitably qualified consultant staff,” he says. “We understand that, despite long standing Department of Health guidance that occupational health units that do not employ a consultant occupational health physician should make arrangements with a neighbouring service to provide some input, this does not always happen. This inevitably limits the quality of service that these units can provide to staff.”
Dr Boorman’s report (BMJ 2009;339:b3406, doi:10.1136/bmj.b3406), called on all NHS staff, including doctors, to make better use of in-house occupational health arrangements. Dr Boorman said that he wants to see more systematic provision across all NHS trusts so that doctors will know, wherever they work, that they have access to appropriate support if they get ill.
The NHS Health and Well-being Review: Interim Report, is available at: www.nhshealthandwellbeing.org