Health surveillance

​​​​​​​​​​Here you will find information on what health surveillance is and who can perform it

Assessments and reporting for health surveillance

As well as occupational health specialists, employees can carry out their own health surveillance.

Here you'll find information about the role of a responsible person in self-assessments.


Self-assessment involves employees checking themselves for signs or symptoms of ill health. They are only carried out effectively when employees have been properly trained. They need to know what to look for and to report symptoms to a responsible person.

An example would be an employee noticing and reporting symptoms on their hands and arms, such as:

  • itching
  • redness
  • discomfort

This could be because they work with substances that can irritate or damage the skin.

Inform your employees on the benefits of early self-reporting of any signs and symptoms in relation to their health. This helps with:

  • accurate record-keeping
  • referral for screening

You can find out more about the role of the responsible person on the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) website.

Health asse​​ssments

Health assessments, while not a legal requirement, can be carried out by an occupational health professional by:

  • telephone assessments
  • face-to-face assessment
  • confidential paper questionnaires

It can advise you regarding the employee's health. It also makes recommendations on what adjustments could be made to support a safe and healthy working environment for them. It can be used as an assessment of their fitness for work.

It can also be used to detect the early onset of health issues within various groups of employees, including those who are:

  • pregnant
  • new or changing job role
  • returning to work after a period of absence
  • at work with a recognised long-term health condition

Confidentiality and recor​​d-keeping

There are legal obligations for medical records regarding their:

  • use
  • retention
  • collection
  • disclosure

A confidential medical record is personal to the employee. It keeps information about their health during employment. It can include:

  • any clinical information
  • personal monitoring stemming from environmental factors
  • details of any biological monitoring or clinical examinations
  • relevant correspondence and details of any health surveillance carried out
  • an occupational health questionnaire completed by the employee concerned

Before tests take place, it should be clearly established in what form the results will be presented and who will receive them.

Legal d​​uties

Medical records are classed as sensitive personal data according to the Data Protection Act 2018 (external site). As such, they cannot be processed or accessed without the written consent of the employee. This permission should also identify the specific person to which the medical information can be disclosed. This includes records that are kept by a third party, for example an external occupational health provider.

The amount of information to be passed on to management by medical staff should be established. It should be no more than an opinion as to the employee's suitability to carry out the designated job. Any more medical information than this can only be disclosed with written consent from the employee

If any non-medical staff have access to records, their terms and conditions of employment must have strict confidentiality clauses.

Medical records and details of occupational exposure should be maintained by the occupational health adviser or physician. Under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) regulations (external site)​, health records must be kept for at least 40 years from the date of the last entry. Records should be kept even if the employee leaves or retires.​