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Safeguard OSH Solutions - Thomson Reuters

Safeguard OSH Solutions - Thomson Reuters

Alert24 - Safeguard Update

UK: ‘A crisis of capability’

UK: ‘A crisis of capability’
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In Britain the declining number and increasing age of occupational physicians poses a threat to the labour force, according to a report by the government’s All-Party Parliamentary Group on Occupational Safety and Health.

The report, Occupational Medical Workforce Crisis: The need for action, released in November last year, says there is a “deepening crisis of capability” as an ageing workforce feeds demand for occupational medical services at a time when few young doctors are entering the profession and many existing practitioners are themselves reaching retirement age.

“The occupational physician is the most critically and immediately endangered member of the multidisciplinary team [providing occupational health services],” it says. “Retirement exceeds retention, impacting not only access to care but also the capacity to train and supervise new doctors.”

Numbers entering the profession in the UK have been falling since 2003, with the number of trainee positions now at an all-time low. In 2015 there were just 74 doctors in training, compared to the 226 trainees in 2002.

Britain now has one occupational physician for every 24,000 workers when comparable countries in Europe and Scandinavia have at least one for every 10,000.

The report calls for urgent action, and makes five recommendations to address the situation:

  • Health education bodies must develop a funding model to support occupational medical training;
  • The government and insurers must seek ways to incentivise employers to provide access to multi-disciplinary occupational health services;
  • Employers should develop incentives to delay the retirement of existing physicians;
  • The NHS must ensure occupational physicians are working in safe, effective, quality-assured multi-disciplinary occupational health teams; and
  • Colleges training occupational physicians must ensure such training is part of the core curricula, and all students understand the importance of work as a clinical outcome.



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