Skip to content

Sheila Pantry Associates Ltd


Focus Archive

Reaching those in need: the Sheffield Occupational Health Advisory Service

March 2001
Sheila Pantry, OBE

Key to the success of an organisation is its ability to develop its work to meet the needs of the community. The Sheffield Occupational Health Advisory Service (SOHAS) has done exactly this by providing occupational health services to patients in the primary care (family doctor) system and in the community for 20 years. So successful has this been that the methods developed have been adopted nationally in the UK.

SOHAS, which has just celebrated the move to new offices, officially opened by the UK Minister of Trade, the Rt. Hon Richard Caborn on 23 February 2001, has been responding to the changing needs of workers and ex-workers for prevention advice, health surveillance, advice on benefits and retirement topics and rehabilitation/job retention.

SOHAS' method of work, particularly in primary care, enables them to identify and respond to new areas of concern as they emerge.

The work is split into two areas:

Funding to continue the General Practitioner (GP) based occupational Health Advisor sessions has come from the Sheffield Health Action Zone which is a seven year programme of action, started in 1999, designed to tackle the root causes of ill-health. SOHAS is developing services accessible to all medical practices across Sheffield.

NOHAP (National Occupational Health Assistance through Primary Care), a 3 year programme, funded by the UK Department of Health. This provides funds for an occupational health facilitator, working with Primary Care Groups throughout the country, to enable them to develop Occupational Health Services.


Evaluation has shown that patients can recognise their own problems. A survey by East London Occupational Health Practice found a close correlation between patients' self-reported health problems and those identified in the same individuals by an occupational health physician.

A survey of all 250 adults attending a GP surgery in one week in Sheffield showed that 10% wanted occupational health advice.


Interviewing patients while they are waiting to see the GP or a member of the primary health care team has given SOHAS a fresh look at the occupational morbidity in the population.

Prevention plays a larger part and financial issues a correspondingly smaller part in the advice given than when patients are seen by referral.

Targeting and systematic screening

When occupational health advisers know the occupational make up of an area well, another possibility is to target high risk groups (by occupation or exposure) and to make planned interventions.


Occupational health advisers working in primary care projects make four kinds of intervention:

The advice

Sheffield Occupational Health Advisory Service (SOHAS) is a charity with a board of trustees, employs 11 people, including Occupational Health Advisors, Finance Officer, Information Officer and a Manager.
For further information contact:
SOHAS, 55 Queen Street, Sheffield
S1 1DX, UK | Tel: +44 (0)114 2755760 | Fax: +44 (0)114 249 1883

Sheila Pantry is Editor/Compiler of Health and Safety World. She also runs an information consultancy specialising in health and safety information, particularly computerised information, and is a partner publisher with SilverPlatter Information Ltd