Small and medium sized UK businesses have little or no access to occupational health physicians

The work of occupational health physicians (OHPs) is highly rated by organisations, but small and medium sized businesses have little or no access to their support.

A new joint survey has been published today by the EEF the Manufacturers' Organisation, and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) conducted by staff from the University of Glasgow's Healthy Working Lives Research Group.

The research titled 'Competencies of Occupational Physicians – the customer's perspective' surveyed the consumers of occupational medicine services to seek their views on the skills and competencies they expect from occupational physicians.

Dr. Ewan Macdonald, Head of HWLRG, said: 'This study confirms the low level of occupational health support available to most firms and demonstrates a need to improve access to that support, particularly for small and medium sized enterprises.'

Dr Macdonald also added that it is rare for the medical profession to ask for the opinion of its customers about the skills they require of doctors and this study has validated the present training programme. But the study also suggested that there needs to be a change in training emphasis with assessment of disability, fitness for work and sickness absence management, together with the ability to assess occupational health hazards and a good knowledge of Law and Ethics all being particularly important.

While the research found that the majority of large companies tend to have a full time occupational physician or one who visits regularly, a significant percentage of small and medium sized companies indicated they had little or no access at all.

Dr Nundita Reetoo, one of the research team members, said that workers and employers from small and medium sized enterprises had had more contact with occupational health nurses than physicians, but wanted access to competent occupational health physicians which was relatively rarely available.

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