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BMA: Doctors should tackle alcohol abuse at work

3 February 2014

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BMA launches new guidelines to help medical professionals tackle alcohol and illegal drugs in the workplace.

Medical professionals have a duty to help patients and employers address alcohol and illicit drug problems in the workplace, the British Medical Association (BMA) has claimed.

There were 8,748 alcohol-related deaths in 2011, and 1,785 linked to illegal drug use, official figures show.

The BMA believes alcohol and drug use in the UK is a significant cause of medical, psychological and social harm, which is strongly linked with preventable premature ill health and mortality. 

Alcohol and illicit drug use is prevalent in those who are in work and is therefore a significant workplace issue and a growing concern for employers, with its impact resulting in lower productivity, inappropriate behaviour and accidents and poor performance, the BMA have said. 

Alcohol and drugs in the workplace: The role of medical professionals, offers information, support and advice to health professionals: 

 – Employers should ensure that staff who have alcohol or drug-related problems have access to an occupational health service.

 – There should be greater awareness amongst employers as to the issues related to alcohol and illicit drug use and the impact on the         workplace including absenteeism and inappropriate behaviour.

 – Workplaces provide venues and captive audiences for health education and opportunities to identify individuals who have problems with alcohol and illicit drugs.

Dr Paul Nicholson, chair of the BMA’s occupational health committee, said: “Only around one in seven workers have access to a qualified occupational physician, with many relying on their GP or hospital specialist for advice relating to fitness for work. For this reason it is fundamental that all doctors understand the risks associated with alcohol and drug use in people who work.

“Medical professionals should also consider a patient’s occupation when prescribing medication that might affect their fitness for specific types of work, particularly those patients who drive, operate machinery, or work at heights.”

The full report is available to view on the BMA website