GPs with special interests (GPwSI) series in brief – Occupational Medicine

Fewer GPs are working full time (10 sessions a week) than before with 8 sessions a week now considered the norm. There are a number of reasons for this and includes family commitments, achieving a work/life balance & preventing burnout or simply looking for mix of skills and escaping a repetitive routine often seen in general practice.

Developing a special interest can address some of the problems mentioned above. You will often hear GP with special interests (GPwSI) e.g in dermatology, ENT, cardiology, diabetes etc. This not only provides patients with the quality care they need but also help to reducing hospital waiting times and cost.

Let us look at hitherto less well known but now increasingly popular special interest of Occupational Medicine.

What is Occupational Medicine?

Like many, I didn’t get to hear about Occupational Medicine until much later – first year of GP training.

Occupational Medicine is primarily concerned with providing specialist medical advice on interaction between work and health (1) This is achieved through, DVLA & taxi license medicals, pre-employment medicals, risk assessment for occupational hazards, health surveillance, sickness absence management etc.

Skills required

It is recommended to have minimum of Diploma in Occupational Medicine. This is awarded by the Faculty of Occupational Medicine (www.fom.ac.uk).

Completing the following three steps are necessary for the award of diploma:

1) Mandatory Occupational Medicine course. Currently, only four institution are approved to run the course.

2) Multiple choice examination with no negative marking. Administered by the Faculty of Occupational Medicine.

3) Portfolio assessment and oral examination. The portfolio is usually in the form of two written reports. One is report based on a visit to, and assessment of, a workplace and the other report should be based on a clinical case seen and examined by the candidate. The oral examination usually revolves around the written reports.

You may wish to consider additional training like Offshore/oil and gas medicals (Offshore medicals), Certificate in Hand Arm VibratioN Syndrome (HAVS), Appointed doctor for Ionising radiation safety etc.

Work pattern

Most jobs are usually 9–5 jobs with no on-call or little or no weekend commitments. As a lot of providers of occupational health service providers are private with clients across large geographical area, there can be a bit of travel involved to accommodate the client depending on where you live.

Challenges of the Job

There is a substantial amount of report writing which some can see as paperwork. The quality of reports also has to be high to avoid complaints.  

The errors in spellings and grammars which we sometimes take for granted will come back to bite here.

There is also minimal “clinical” medicine and a sense of “alienation”. However, this may not be so much of a problem for those combining OH work with their usual GP work.

Pay

You can set up your own firm with the sky being the limit. For those considering salaried role, most employer can match typical GP earnings with potential to increase it depending on the experience.

Where to find job

The Society of Occupational Medicine (vacancies) frequently posts vacancies on its website. There are also a number of occupational health recruitment agencies you might wish to consider e.g. https://www.ohrecruitment.co.uk/, http://www.ohstaffing.co.uk/ etc. Employers also advertise on a number of related magazines and website e.g. https://www.atworkpartnership.co.uk/jobs-wp/

In summary, Occupational medicine as a special interest for GPs can be very rewarding and can provide the right balance of workload many are struggling to achieve.

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