Abstract: A good cooperation between occupational physicians and other healthcare professionals is essential in order to achieve an overall improvement of workers/patients' well-being. Unfortunately, collaboration between occupational physicians and other physicians is often lacking or very poor. In this context, using a self-administered questionnaire, we investigated the cooperation of Italian occupational physicians with the National Health System (NHS) facilities and with the general practitioners in order to identify any potential critical issues that may hinder an effective and collaborative relationships between these professionals. The survey was conducted from October 2013 to January 2014. Nearly all of the interviewed occupational physicians have had contacts with colleagues of the Departments for Prevention and Occupational Health and Safety of the NHS. Regarding the relationship between occupational physicians and general practitioners findings showed that their cooperation is quite difficult and it would not seem a two-way collaboration. Cooperation between occupational physicians and NHS would benefit from the development of communication strategies and tools enhancing the support and assistance functions of the NHS facilities. The elaboration and subsequent application of operational guidelines and standardized procedures of communication would also improve collaboration between occupational physicians and general practitioners that is currently considered rather insufficient and incomplete.
Key words: Occupational medicine, Occupational medicine physician, General practitioners, National health system, Cooperation
The Occupational Physicians (OPs) play a key role within the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) management systems to protect and improve the health of employees (EEs) in relation to their work and to ensure a continual improvement of working environment and preventive and/or protective measures. In this regard, it should be noted that recently the International Labour Office estimated the global burden of occupational diseases (any disease contracted as a result of an exposure to hazards arising from a work activity), work-related diseases (diseases with multiple causal agents, where factors in the work environment may play a role, together with other risk factors, in the aetiology of such diseases) and occupational accidents (an occurrence arising out of, or in the course of, work which results in a fatal or non-fatal injury) highlighting that over 2.3 million people die every year due to these causes (over 350,000 fatalities are provoked by occupational accidents, while about 2 million are caused by occupational and/or work-related diseases) (1). Mostly important, the majority of these deaths can be preventable through the application of comprehensive and thorough preventive actions and programs. In this context, the role and the functions of OPs are critical since, being focused on the evaluation (and subsequent elimination or reduction) of occupational risks, improvement of working conditions, assessment of functional ability against the requirements of the job, and early diagnosis of occupational diseases, they enable to achieve a good protection of workers' health and safety. Moreover, considering that the practice of Occupational Medicine (OM) is constantly changing, it should also take into account that OPs are increasingly asked to address issues such as health promotion, medical counseling, environmental and public health.
Nevertheless, one of the main tasks of...