Doctors’ wellbeing—is anybody listening?BMJ 2018; 363 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.k4652 (Published 08 November 2018) Cite this as: BMJ 2018;363:k4652
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Sen’s call for the provision of high quality occupational health services and support, not only for doctors but all healthcare professionals is laudable. This can only be enacted by our democratically elected representatives, who also have to balance the needs of other essential workers who contribute to our society and economy.
However, calling for this service only for healthcare workers could be seen as promoting medical exceptionalism and self interest in terms of access to resources. It can be argued that other essential sectors have an equally vital role such as the teaching profession, frontline emergency response workers and those who create employment in our society.
The UK is the only major European country that does not have a legal requirement for the mandatory provision of occupational health services either by the state or employers. Statutory Medical surveillance only covers 0.1% of workers.
There is a significant shortage of doctors and nurses who specialise in occupational medicine. As there is no legal obligation to provide an occupational health service in the UK, neither the state nor employers are prepared to finance specialist training schemes. The All Party Parliamentary report of 2016 noted that only 13% of UK workers can have access to an occupational physician , which is likely to be the lowest coverage of any medical speciality.
The EU evaluation of compliance with safety and health Directives shows that whereas the average percentage of establishments making available health surveillance amongst EU members is 65%, this is only 18% in the UK. Consequently, workers in the UK are denied early detection of harm to their health and the opportunity to avoid further harmful exposures.
We believe that to protect the future health and productivity of our workforce it is essential that the provision of occupational health services should be made a national requirement for all workers.
1. Sen D. Doctors’ wellbeing—is anybody listening? BMJ 2018;363:k4652
2. Raynal A. Occupational Medicine is in Demise BMJ 2015;351:h5905 doi: 10.1136/bmj.h5905
Competing interests: No competing interests