Home Resources Links FAQs Commentaries Search Help
Home Page for Health, Environment and Work Click on Image

Occupational Health in relation to Primary Care and General Medical Practice



In the context of a patient's contact with a member of a Primary Care team, usually a General Medical Practitioner, issues of Occupational Health (the influence of Work on Health, and of Health on Work) may be very important. The patient might also present to an Occupational Health professional, or bypass the Primary Care team or the issue 'slips through the net' in which case presentation may be to an Accident and Emergency Department, to a hospital based specialist, or some other body. In any case, at first contact, the following aspects need to be considered:
  • Could the patient have a problem or contend with a health risk that may be work-related?
  • If the answer to the above is 'Yes' - could this have urgent implications? - If the implications are potentially urgent and serious (see the first example below) the primary health care worker must take urgent action -even if it is simply withdrawing the patient from exposure, and then seeking appropriate advice. What is the appropriate action?
  • In any case, if the primary health care worker or the patient consider that there may be a work related problem - where and how can more information be obtained, and who else can help?


The Way Ahead:

The prime emphasis to prevent work related ill-health and to promote health at work, must be within the workplace itself. It is only at this level that true 'primary' prevention can be practised to the extent of controlling risks before they ever arise in the first place.

However, inevitably there will always be issues regarding health and work that will face the General Medical Practitioner, and other health care professionals outside the workplace. These professionals cannot be expected to have the full competencies of Occupational Health Professionals, since they have to be competent and resourced in a wide range of areas. However they need to be aware of the possible interactions between health and work, so that they can seek further information/advice or refer the patient accordingly.

An important research programme has been set up in order to determine the incidence of occupational ill health of patients as determined by trained General Practitioners. Foe more information about THORgp please click here.