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Gyms demand GPs provide patients with ‘fit to exercise’ notes

GPs are being swamped by requests from gyms to sign certificates guaranteeing their patients' ‘fitness to exercise', in a move LMC leaders warn is driving up workload and leaves GPs open to medico-legal action.

LMCs claim gyms are asking for GPs' signatures in order to ‘cover their backs' if a patient has an accident while exercising, but are advising practices to refuse to sign the forms, which are not funded.

In Birmingham, LMC leaders have won guarantees that council-run gym programmes will no longer request GP signatures, but said practices were still facing a ‘vast number of requests' from private gyms.

Dr Charles Zuckerman, medical secretary at Birmingham LMC, told Pulse GPs could provide medical reports to gyms for a standard fee, providing ‘factual information' to help gym companies make a judgement. But asking GPs to sign forms declaring a patient as fit to exercise put them in an impossible position, he said.

‘To do this you would need to carry out a full examination of the patient and have full knowledge of the entire programme of exercise. You would need to be appropriately qualified, possibly with a qualification in sports medicine and you would need to inform your medical defence body.'

‘These forms risk putting GPs at considerable professional and legal risk.'

GPs in north London are also receiving requests from gyms for GP signatures to confirm that a patient is ‘fit for free gym memberships'. Haringey LMC warned it did not ‘consider it appropriate' to pressurise GPs into signing the documents.