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Seafarers Hospital Society launches free health consultation guide

SHS The cover of the Seafarer Health Consultation Guide, featuring a seafarer  looking out to sea from a vessel
In a bid to improve healthcare out comes for seafarers, The Seafarers Hospital Society (SHS) has launched a free Health Consultation Guide.

The guide aims to bridge the gap between medical professionals and seafarers, building understanding of the risks of working at sea, health requirements of the Maritime Labour Convention, and the healthcare requirements of those that work at sea.

For seafarers, the guide offers advice on communicating their health concerns to healthcare professionals, the importance of keeping employers informed of medical recommendations, planning work schedules and leave periods, and ensuring follow-up appointments can be kept.

The guide targets jobs across the maritime industry from inshore fishing to oceangoing vessels.

For healthcare professionals, the guide provides clinically-relevant information on life at sea, ranging from long periods of time spent at sea away from healthcare providers though exposure to injury, illness, hazards and risks onboard and in port.

SHS trustee, Dr Tim Carter, said: “Seafarers all too often find that when they see a health professional, whether it is a GP, a hospital doctor, a dentist or another clinical specialist, there is little understanding of their special healthcare needs. These may result from periods on board when they are not available for treatment or follow-up; it may be that they need prescriptions of longer duration than normal, or it may be that they need additional immunisations.

 “Few health professionals are aware of the fitness requirements for seafarers and the need to expedite investigations while they are ashore or to place more emphasis on prevention, for instance, to reduce the risk of dental problems while at sea. All these are topics that I know led to misunderstandings during my fifteen years as a medical adviser to the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA).”

Dr Charlotte Mendes Da Costa, a trustee of SHS since 2009, said: “This new guidance for Seafarer Health is a welcome guide for a group whose healthcare needs have too often been overlooked, for a variety of reasons. It is particularly relevant to doctors – both GPs and hospital doctors, practice nurses, physiotherapists and dentists. The guide is well written, in plain English, and is both comprehensive and concise. It should be saved to the favourites list of any health care professional who regularly cares for seafarers in the UK."

Sandra Welch, CEO of the Seafarers Hospital Society, said: “From our longstanding work with seafarers, we know of the urgent need to bridge this divide in communication between crew and their families and healthcare providers. We hope that making the Seafarer Health Consultation Guide freely available online — in a format that is easy to download to electronic devices or print out — will ensure that any seafarer or healthcare provider seeking better communication will be able to access its information and use it effectively.”

The Seafarer Health Consultation Guide is freely available for download at