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GP fit notes training faces the axe

By Lilian Anekwe

Exclusive: A flagship training programme for GPs covering the new fit notes and other key health and work issues faces the axe in the Government´s Comprehensive Spending Review.

Pulse has learned that funding for the RCGP´s two-year programme of workshops could be cut in the review to be announced by Chancellor George Osborne later this month.

Some 2,000 GPs have attended the programme of half-day workshops so far, with another 1,500 expected to attend by the end of March 2011. A review of the workshops' outcomes suggested they greatly improved GPs' confidence in signing fit notes – 80% said they felt confident after the workshop, compared with only 30% before.

Professor Sayeed Khan, RCGP clinical co-lead on the project said it was under review by the Department of Work and Pensions: ‘The workshops seem to be working. We´ve just analysed them and presented our findings to the DWP, but the Government needs to think about whether they're value for money.'

The question mark over their future emerged as new research suggested GPs needed more support in dealing with sickness certification.

A qualitative study published in the British Journal of General Practice last week and based on in-depth interviews with 30 GPs suggested even those who had undergone training in occupational health felt having to sign fit notes placed them in an invidious position, because of a conflict of interest with their role as the patient's advocate.

Study leader Dr Annemarie Money, research associate at the University of Manchester's Centre for Occupational and Environmental Health, said training for GPs was all the more important since introduction of the fit note and its onus on GPs to give recommendations on easing patients back to work.

‘There is very little available to GPs in this sphere as it is.'

The workshops were launched in April 2009 by the DWP in the wake of the 2008 Black Report into the health of working age Britain at the cost of around £1 million over two years.

Med3 More on fit notes

Click here for our fit notes resource centre

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