Occupational health issues amongst UK doctors: a literature review

Occup Med (Lond). 2015 Oct;65(7):519-28. doi: 10.1093/occmed/kqv088. Epub 2015 Jul 14.


Background: Around 1.1 million people suffer from occupational health diseases in the UK. Work-related conditions reported by doctors include mental health disorders, musculoskeletal problems and skin disorders.

Aims: To investigate the prevalence of occupational illness in UK doctors from different specialties.

Methods: A literature search conducted on PubMed, EMBASE, MEDLINE® and Health Management Information Consortium (HMIC) identified relevant research about doctors between the years 1990 and 2013.

Results: Seventy-two papers were identified. The majority of studies were cross-sectional with no random ized controlled trials or meta-analyses found. Mental health issues including burnout were widely reported and were attributed to greater job constraints, managerial issues, difficulty with clinical cases and lack of job satisfaction. Substance abuse in doctors was reported to be a risk of maladaptive coping mechanisms and was associated with early retirement. Surgeons were reported as being at greatest risk of needle-stick injuries and musculoskeletal pain. Orthopaedic surgeons were reported to be at risk of noise-induced hearing loss as a result of the use of air-powered and electric drills. There was limited research found concerning contact dermatitis and work-related malignancies amongst doctors in the UK.

Conclusions: Our literature review found research on UK doctors for a variety of work-related illnesses with the prevalence varying depending on both specialty and seniority. This could have adverse effects both on the individual and the provision of patient care. Further studies are required to investigate the epidemiology of noise-induced hearing loss, nosocomial infections, skin-related disorders and work-related malignancies.

Keywords: Doctors; NHS; UK; occupation hazards; occupational illness; work-related disease..

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Occupational Diseases* / epidemiology
  • Occupational Diseases* / etiology
  • Occupational Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Occupational Health*
  • Physicians*
  • United Kingdom