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It is extremely worrying if a third of GPs have no access to occupational health support



Dear Editor

It is extremely worrying if a third of GPs have no access to occupational health support and not just for those practitioners who are ‘burnt-out’, as Pulse reported last month.

Occupational health is important and should be available for all NHS staff; those working in primary care should receive the same overall provision as their colleagues in secondary care.

GPs and other primary care staff work in difficult and complex conditions that are full of risk. For the NHS to be effective we need to recognise, value and reward the contribution made by staff and ensure that they are healthy, well and looked after.

There is good evidence that where NHS organisations prioritise staff health and wellbeing, performance is enhanced, patient care improves, staff retention is higher and sickness absence is lower.

Occupational health specialists can help with ‘burn out’ or stress but our remit is much wider. We bring a unique understanding of all of the specific health issues affecting healthcare workers. For example, we provide advice in relation to blood borne viruses; support GPs in their role as employers (hazard identification, risk management and staff management particularly in relation to fitness for work) and provide specialist services for ‘doctors in difficulty’.

Enabling staff to stay healthy means they can in turn deliver the best possible care to patients – we need to ensure that high quality occupational health services are available to all GPs irrespective of region.

From Dr Anne de Bono, chair, NHS Health at Work Network