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Competency 5 – Relationships with patients:Recognise the potential for conflicts of interest

Objective: to have the knowledge, skills and attitudes to cope with ethical and legal issues in the management of patients with occupational problems

KNOWLEDGE

RECOGNISE THE POTENTIAL FOR CONFLICTS OF INTEREST BETWEEN THE EMPLOYER AND EMPLOYEE AND THE OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH SERVICE

Occupational health services provide independent and impartial advice to both the employer and the employee. Providing clear guidance to both parties as to the occupational health services role will reduce the potential for conflict. Occupational health physicians must ensure that all parties (managers, employees, trade unions and professional colleagues) understand the nature of their role. Maintaining this delicate balance is key to delivering an effective service.

Consider the following scenario:

An occupational health doctor provides advice to an employee without emphasising their independent role and the purpose of the consultation. The occupational health department then provides non clinical information relating to the employee’s fitness to work to management. The employee believed the content and the outcome of the consultation to be confidential, as when seeing the general practitioner. This illustrates how there is potential for conflict if roles are not clearly defined. 

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