Fishing News received the statement below from the MCA, which we share in its entirety, in response to our coverage about the new medical certificates in the 16 March issue.

The accompanying email from the MCA press office said: “We would appreciate this being published as it’s an opportunity to respond to concerns raised, and it will hopefully provide some guidance and reassurance to readers.”

Grandfather rights and early assessment are some of the ways in which fishermen can receive their medical certificate of fitness by November 2023.

Following an article published in Fishing News, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency wants to reassure fishermen that pre-existing medical conditions and doctor accessibility should not be reasons to resist or delay their medical assessment.

Medical conditions and mental health

If applying for a ML5 certificate, pre-existing medical conditions like colour blindness and BMI concerns will not result in a ‘fail’ of the assessment – it simply means a doctor may not be able to issue the certificate.If that is the case can apply to the MCA for an MCA-appointed medical assessor to make a decision. This will be based on your BMI, other medical conditions, and your fitness to undertake your role, taking account of where you work and what you do.

There is no definite cut-off for BMI – it is simply a marker that a more detailed assessment needs to take place to check physical capability and other potential medical conditions.

If you apply for an ENG1 certificate, then the approved doctor does have some flexibility to issue a certificate, possibly with restrictions.

There are services and resources available for those concerned about mental health and wellbeing, including the Seafarer’s Hospital Society, the Fisherman’s Mission and further information and advice on:

Grandfather rights

Applying for a medical certificate early means fishermen with a pre-existing medical condition can be considered for grandfather rights.

Grandfather rights ensure that, where you can do so without significant risk to your own or others’ health and safety, you are able to continue to work in your current occupation.

Grandfather rights may apply to colour blindness.

If you do not apply for your medical certificate prior to November, you will not be eligible for grandfather rights. You will be classed as a new entrant who needs to meet the MSN 1886 medical standards.

The medical assessor will then have less flexibility to take into account your history of working with any medical condition.

Finding a doctor to complete the medical

If your GP is unavailable to complete a medical, the ML5 report form can be completed by any doctor registered with the UK General Medical Council and with a valid licence to practice.

If you are not registered with a doctor or practice, or your normal doctor does not have availability, you can contact GP practices or other practices, e.g. occupational health practices, in your area for further guidance.

For an ENG1 certificate, you will need to contact an MCA-approved doctor. A list of MCA-approved doctors in the UK is available on the website. MCA-approved doctors can also provide the ML5 assessment.

The fee for an ENG 1 is set in statute at £115. There is no fixed fee for ML5s.

Required by international law

The international legislation requiring fishermen to have an ML5 or ENG1 certificate of medical fitness is not new, but in fact came into force in the UK in 2018.

A five-year phased approach means fishermen must have a personal certificate of medical fitness by November 2023.

The phased approach was decided following consultation with representatives of fishing vessel owners and fishermen. It was also published in a Marine Information Notice.

In response to the upcoming deadline, the MCA advertised the requirement earlier this year, but several reminders and messaging have been provided to industry since 2019.

Julie Carlton, MCA head of seafarer safety and health, said: “We are doing everything we can to support and prepare fishermen in the lead-up to this requirement coming into force. This includes responding to concerns, questions and misunderstandings, providing guidance and signposting to trusted resources and services.

“There is still plenty of time to get your medical certification. The Medical Administration Team at the MCA is happy to give advice on how to go about this. Applying now ensures there is time to complete the medical and, if necessary, address any problems before the requirement comes into effect.

“By getting either a ML5 or ENG1 certificate, fishermen have the reassurance that they are medically fit enough to do their work, without causing a risk to themselves or others.

“Health needs to be put first, and this law further accelerates our mission of protecting lives at sea.”

This story was taken from the latest issue of Fishing News. For more up-to-date and in-depth reports on the UK and Irish commercial fishing sector, subscribe to Fishing News here or buy the latest single issue for just £3.30 here

Read our latest report ‘Fishermen groups take industry’s concerns to the MCA’ here.

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