The Health and Safety Commission's ‘Strategy for Workplace Health and Safety in Great Britain to 2010 and Beyond’, which HSE has the challenge to implement, aims to reduce the incidence of work related ill health by 20% by 2010. HSE aims to achieve this, in part, by reducing incidence of occupational respiratory diseases such as occupational asthma, and disease specific packages of measures have been devised to realise this aim. For example, the headline target in HSE’s strategy for occupational asthma is to reduce incidence of disease caused by exposure to substances in the workplace by 30% by 2010. Key to the realisation of this target is the reduction to a minimum the time between the first onset of respiratory symptoms at work and the instigation of measures post diagnosis to eliminate or reduce offending workplace exposures. This is necessarily reliant on workers recognising work related respiratory symptoms quickly, possibly aided by occupational health advice or health surveillance at work, then consulting a general practitioner. General practitioners and general practice nurse staff then need to recognise early, suspected cases of occupational asthma through appropriate assessment, and refer cases on to secondary care for further assessment and diagnosis. The clinical approach by which respiratory or occupational consultants diagnose occupational asthma then needs to operate effectively so that cases of disease are quickly and correctly diagnosed. Secondary care departments that see occupational asthma patients obviously need to be appropriately resourced and staffed to achieve this, or failing this, a more specialist secondary care department needs to be sufficiently close allowing the patient to be easily referred on for further assessment.
This report and the work it describes were funded by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Its contents, including any opinions and/or conclusions expressed, are those of the authors alone and do not necessarily reflect HSE policy.
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