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At the heart of general practice since 1960

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Dr Sue Ensaff has no hesitation in rcommending occupational medicine ­ and it enriches her practice work

I would love to say that it was an interest in the adverse effects of work on health that drew me to occupational medicine. But that wouldn't be the full story.

In fact, I was drawn to work for a major retail company by all the attractions of discounted merchandise, free hairdressing services and working in a shopping centre. After all, my knowledge of occupational medicine at the time was: 'Is this a real specialty, how hard can it be?' And although I secured a post, these incentives turned out to be merely a figment of my imagination.

My first job did, however, prove to be a good first step into the world of occupational medicine. There was a well-established in-house occupational health department, along with a manual that provided guidance in those uncertain moments ­ of which there were many.

It was at this stage that I decided to obtain a DOccMed (Diploma of Occupational Medicine). This qualification is primarily aimed at GPs and proved invaluable in broadening and consolidating my knowledge as well as opening the door to many other job opportunities in other industries.

Occupational medicine draws on a wide variety of medical and scientific disciplines to achieve its goals and requires the development of a wide range of knowledge and skills. It combines clinical, preventive and environmental medicine with additional knowledge drawn from such disciplines as epidemiology, occupational hygiene and engineering, toxicology and law.

Occupational health provision in the UK is

not a legislative requirement at present, but there has been an increase in demand from medium- to small-sized firms in recent years. Most large firms have access to or in-house occupational health provision.

I have worked in both types of organisations providing various services. These include risk assessments, pre-employment assessment, fitness to work, advice on sickness absence, ill-health retirement, rehabilitation, health surveillance (statutory or advisory) and health promotion.

I spend a substantial amount of time working from home compiling reports.

The work is variable in regularity. Some organisations require regular sessions with

in-house occupational health nurses, while others only need the odd session. This has provided me with a wealth of experience, an insight into the business world, not to mention the extra mileage on the car.

Remuneration is variable, and with my qualification and five years' experience I charge between £100-£135 per hour depending on the work.

Most of the work is secured through an occupational health agency or by word of mouth.

The other major attraction of the work is the flexibility of the sessions. I can dictate my availability and it usually falls within normal school/working hours. This fits nicely with my two sessions a week as a GP.

Occupational medicine has enriched my role as a GP. I would now hopefully not misdiagnose a case of occupational asthma, be able to assess non-specific upper limb disorders and provide alternative strategies in situations where signing a patient off sick may seem to be the only option.

I have no hesitation in recommending occupational medicine as I feel it complements the work of general practice, providing insight into the working world as well as easing the bank balance.

I would advise obtaining the Diploma in Occupational Medicine and further details can be obtained from the Royal College of Occupational Medicine: www.facoccmed.ac.uk/diplomas

Useful websites

Health and Safety Executive

Society of Occupational Medicine

www.hse.gov.uk

Centre for Occupational and environmental Health www.coeh.man.ac.uk

let'spractisein...Birmingham

Where? Birmingham is 'a dynamic business and leisure city, offering a world-class cultural scene and a

diverse mix of shopping, attractions

and nightlife'.

(Birmingham city council)

Could be anywhere.

What's special about it?

Well, it's England's second city for

one thing. The centre of Brum's not

as drab as it used to be since the Bullring was redeveloped into a

state-of-the-art shopping centre.

Work? There are 78 practices and 118 GP principals within the Heart of Birmingham PCT.

Homes? £375,000 for a 'favourably located' five-bedroom detached house with double garage.

Schools? King Edward's Camp Hill Schools are selective but are highly ranked for A-level results (465.5 points per pupil).

Leisure? Museums, galleries, arguably the finest concert hall in Europe ­ the Symphony Hall, sports and entertainment facilities galore.

From the local press: The Government is forcing through its controversial 24-hour licensing laws and leaving businesses and local authorities struggling to cope.

Birmingham Post, January 24

Famous residents:

Pre-Raphaelite painter Edward Burne-Jones, celebrity rocker Ozzy Osbourne.

Anything else? It's hailed as the capital of the balti curry and the city boasts a fine general practice department at the university under Professor Richard Hobbs.

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