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Independents' Day

GPs' signatures increasingly being forged for sick notes

The number of incidents in which GP signatures are being forged on sick notes and other medical documents is rising, according to the Medical Defence Union (MDU),

The warning follows the increased availability of online editing software, which allows patients to forge a range of documents including letters, prescriptions and sick notes.

Certain websites even offer advice on how to convincingly forge a sick note or allow people to buy replacement/replica and fake NHS sick notes for as little as £9.99.

But the MDU warns GPs to tread carefully when it comes to removing patients engaged in forgery from a practice’s list

Writing in the latest MDU Journal, medico-legal adviser Dr Ellie Mein says the MDU had supported members with cases ranging from ‘forged prescriptions and genuine sick notes that have been altered to prolong the duration of the patient’s sick leave, through to more elaborate letters that have been created entirely from scratch’.

In one example, a GP received a phone call from the local university asking for clarification on a letter apparently signed by the GP. It appeared to support a student in extending a coursework deadline due to ill healt, but the GP did not recall signing the letter and did not even recognise the circumstances described.

A review of the patient’s notes revealed that they hadn’t been seen for at least two years and although the letter was written on paper with the practice letterhead on it, the signature was similar, but not identical, to the GP’s.

Dr Mein says: ‘In situations where a document is entirely fake, or an original has been altered and a doctor is asked to comment on its authenticity by an external organisation, the MDU advises that it’s not a breach of confidentiality if you simply confirm that you didn’t create the document, or that any altered documents aren’t as they were when you originally signed them.

’However, no other information should be given about whether the patient is actually registered at the practice or comments made about whether the medical information is correct,’ she added.

Dr Mein also warns GPs not to remove a patient who has used fraudulent documents from the practice’s list without prior warning because it could leave the practice open to complaints.

She says: ‘The GMC also has guidance on ending your professional relationship with patients. Bearing this guidance in mind, it is often helpful to ask the patient in to discuss the letter or form in question and to make a judgment after that discussion as to the best way forward.’

Readers' comments (7)

  • pathetic guidance from MDU/GMC as usual. They forge your signature they walk. No argument .
    If they complain call the police.
    Why can GMC tell us to retrain as transgender specialist but not tell us to remove liars and cheats?

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  • Excellent, what a great idea let them forge them saves us having to listen to 10 minutes of bleating before wearily printing one out. I think they should allow patients to issue their own notes.

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  • I think the we need to recognise the contribution to NHS being made by these patients. They should do a pilot scheme where patients are allowed to print their own med3 and FP10s as well. Just imagine, how much of GP time it would free up?!!!

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  • Mr Hunt looking to recruit these people to fill in during the Junior doctor strikes as they are able to fake it as doctors and fill up gaps in rotas!

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  • Theme currently is punish the responsible people or get them to carry the can for irresponsible. Let the irresponsible carry on and support them and crimminal rights trumps victim's.

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  • Peter Swinyard

    Deeply feeble response from MDU/GMC. The last time I was phoned by a company for a manifestly forged sicknote, I suggested that this amounted to fraud and that they may consider involving the police. They did. I only confirmed that the alleged sicknote did not come from me (after all, I do not sign my full name in best joined-up handwriting! Or misspell the words on the note!). Result - he lost his job, his wife and family and had to do some community work. The softly approach will just encourage this fraud and at a cost to all of us as taxpayers

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