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10 Tips for Signing Sick Notes

1. Patients are expected to self-certify for the first week off work.

2. Never sign anything that you are in doubt about.

3. The GMC says doctors must be ‘honest and trustworthy when writing reports, completing or signing forms and providing evidence in litigation and other formal inquiries'.

4. If in doubt about something you are writing, imagine hearing it read back to you in court.

5. If you sign a Med 3 certificate, you should have examined the patient on the day the certificate is issued or the day before.

6. On a Med 3 you must state either a date for return to work (a closed certificate) or a time period when the patient will be reviewed (an open certificate).

7. Remember there is a difference between fact and opinion.

8. Think of how to help patients return to work – fewer than 50% of patients off for six months ever go back to work.

9. Med 5 certificates are very useful when you haven't seen the patient personally.

10. If you think the patient needs disability employment advice, you can say so in the 'Remarks' section.

Professor David Haslam is president of the RCGP

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