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GPs urged to 'suggest job change' in asthma

GPs should encourage asthma patients to move jobs if they believe their health is being affected by occupational factors, according to a new UK report.

The report by researchers at the Institute of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, University of Birmingham, said health outcomes of occupational asthma are good with early diagnosis, but found a third of sufferers never make a full recovery, as GPs do not always act soon enough to remove them from the source of their condition. 

Study leader Dr Gareth Walters said: ‘The most important thing is recognising that the patient has a problem related to their work. If you can recognise the relationship between symptoms and work then you’ve already taken the first step.’

Readers' comments (5)

  • Vinci Ho

    Here we go again.
    Put the responsibility on us and the employers keep sending 30 pages of job description our way as if we have a lot of time to do everything...........

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  • Let common sense prevail

    Poor headline really.
    Certainly I would agree that as GP's we would benefit our patients if we had a better understanding of the occupational causes of asthma and enquired about occupation more regularly (this in fact was the gist of the quoted article in Occupational Medicine, which was a siple audit of GP records), but an appropriate course of action if occupation is a causative factor would be to inform the employer. Employers have an obligation to protect the health of their workers, and in industries with a risk of (true) occupational asthma (OA) they should already be screening their employees.
    Although this article suggests that OA is under-recorded in general practice, there is a danger of overdiagnosing because of a lack of understanding of the condition and its causative agents. The article suggests that 10% of cases of adult onset asthma are due to occupation, but does not mention a need to identify a known respiratory sensitiser in order to establish the diagnosis.
    The helpful point that they do make is that in new onset asthma in adults, it would be very useful to ask two very simple questions:
    'Are your symptoms better on non-work days/weekends?' and 'Do your symptoms go away when you are on holiday?'

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  • clearly this is an occupation health doctors work, paid for by the company who hires them under health and safety laws. can we please keep GP's out of employment and occupational health problems and put more pressure on employers to ask experts (yes occupational health) to get more involved.

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  • And what do they suggest we do with schoolchildren who are allergic to animal dander that can be brought in on the clothing of fellow pupils?

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  • Proper systematic risk assessment with controls of hazard and risk at source in the workplace is the first priority. Any fool can say 'find a new job'. If only it were that easy. There's always a risk that the employee will move to a similar job with similar hazards. Unemployment is not a positive health and well-being strategy.

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