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GP fit note programme has 'failed to get people back into work'

GP-administered ‘fit notes’ have failed to return people to work, a survey of 345 UK companies has suggested.

Almost half of companies (43%) said fit notes were ‘not helping employees to return to work’, and more than half (59%) said they felt unable to make all of the ‘required workplace adjustments’ for employees who had fit notes signed as ‘may be fit for work’.

The Government’s flagship fit note scheme replaced sick notes five years ago in the hope it would see GPs sending thousands more employees back to work and reduce sickness absence, despite GPs having expressed doubts since before its launch.

EEF, the industry body for engineering and manufacturing employers which commissioned the survey, said: ‘The evidence is now clear five years on that it’s not delivering on helping people back to work earlier.’

To aid the process, the organisation has developed a ‘template’ that the employee can bring to the GP consultation. It outlines what changes the employer is willing and able to make.

EEF health and safety lead Terry Woolmer said: ‘It is vital that employers take their responsibility for working with employees and GPs seriously. This template will spell out clearly the adjustments they are willing to do to enable the employee to return to work in some capacity.’

Readers' comments (13)

  • This was entirely predictable.
    The benefits system is skewed towards ESA rather than JSA.
    Employers are poor at seeking occupational health advice or dealing with disciplinary issues.
    Anyone who thought a change in the name of the med 3 would work miracles on sickness absence is an idiot.

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  • GPs are not ideally placed to be a cheap alternative to an adequately funded employer occupational health programme.We are not occupational health Drs you idiot politicians!

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  • more than half (59%) said they felt unable to make all of the ‘required workplace adjustments’ for employees who had fit notes signed as ‘may be fit for work’.
    So what is the point then dear employers???

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  • Spin it to GPs fault probably!
    Having done the DOccMed the adaptions need to be assessed individually. We as GPs act as treating physicians; Occ Health look at impact of patient to workplace and vica versa, not curing or improving condition, although work is mostly beneficial.
    We all know the lead swingers and used to have the RM7 to suggest that to the benefits agency but it is employers that need to help their workers but capitalism trumps compassion. the NHS cannot police workplace schemes and sick policies.

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  • Powers above,if you're still listening,please,please please take sick note prescribing off our hands.

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  • Unsurprising

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  • a ‘template’ that the employee can bring to the GP consultation. It outlines what changes the employer is willing and able to make.
    nothing to do with me. i do not offer occ health advice.
    fit note 'may be able to work' the rest is not for me

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  • Even NHS hospital trusts think Gps are there to police their post bank holiday sickness rates. Far easier to blame gps than to become a supportive, empowering employer with good staffing levels, sensible managers, trust in employees and a living wage.

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  • Why the hell should GP police the benefits system?

    GP is not best placed to tell the employer/school/university what adjustments they need to make for the chronically sick or disabled. - occupational health role surely?

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  • write "acopia" as diagnosis as one of my friend gp used to write specially when you can't find why they don't want to work.
    don't take it seriously.
    what work adjustment can one advise??

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  • Of course it failed.
    They spent huge money on berating GPs and telling them what a bad job they were doing on false pretences (because we were not doing a bad job, and we knew how it should work). They totally failed to give even minimal undertsanding of the 'Fit Note', OR the benefits to the patient of an early return to work, to the people that really mattered, the EMPLOYERS, and the JOBCENTRE STAFF.
    we have employers sending pateint back because they 'dont accept' our fit notes, and we have jobcentre staff sending us patients who are patently fit, but don't WANT to work, and the occasional patient who professes a desire TO WORK (clearly an abnormal state of affairs in the eyes of the jobcentre staff!!), with demand that we issue Med3s for them so they can give out the money.
    THIS IS NOT HOW THE SYSTEM WORKS, hence the system failed. They should have spent more time educating Jobcentre counter low-life about respecting the GPs assessments and NOT trying to defruad by manipulating sick/unemployed figures.
    They also failed to educate hospital doctors about THEIR statutory responsibility to certify patients under their care, causing excess GP workload and huge patient inconvenience and dissatisfaction.
    It is now time to have a GP-independent system for sick certification, because the other players have completely broken the system based on GP certfication, and it will never work again because we have lost faith and trust in what is being said to us by agencies who clearly don;t know what they are talking about.
    GP, Wales

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  • Please see info below on Fit for Work, a Government-funded initiative, which is intended to support practices/patients/employers in this area.

    Fit For Work offers free impartial, expert health and work advice to employees, employers and GPs, delivered by a team of occupational health professionals.

    The objective of Fit For Work is to empower employees and employers to take control and help people back to work through advice, consultation and assessment and to complement the services that GPs provide.

    More information can be obtained on the GP area of the website - http://fitforwork.org/general-practitioner

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  • Other than broken bones, most of my Med3's are for depression due to bullying at work as a result of poor manager/employer relations. As noted earlier, how do you make work adaptions for that?

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