Exclusive LMC leaders are preparing self-certification forms to prevent GP surgeries being inundated by NHS staff forced to get sick notes for the pensions ‘day of action’ this Wednesday.
The move comes after Pulse reported NHS Employers guidance that any NHS worker phoning in sick this Wednesday has to provide a sick note from a GP, even if they are off for just that day.
The Day of Action will be the biggest strike in decades, involving 33 unions representing 2.6 million workers, and the GPC is advising GPs that they are not legally obliged to write certificates for NHS staff who phone in sick during Wednesday’s public sector strike.
LMCs in Merseyside are considering issuing all their practices with ‘chits’ to give to NHS staff requiring sick notes on Wednesday. The patient ticks boxes confirming they have attended the surgery with a self-limiting ailment that does not require an appointment can be treated with self-care.
‘Staff would hand them out like confetti at reception,’ said Dr Andrew Mimnagh, chair of Sefton LMC.
Wessex LMCs has advised its 450 practices that a tick box form is one approach that could be taken. LMC chief executive Dr Nigel Watson, said: ‘Some have told us they will see these patients but charge the employers for the sick notes.’
Dr Watson was concerned that practices would be ‘inundated’ with requests for sick notes on Wednesday, and not just from NHS staff. ‘We have heard of schools saying they will be requiring sick notes from teachers. Then there are other people with school-age children who will be looking for the day off.’
Under current rules, GPs are obliged to produce sickness certificates for illnesses longer than seven days, but may issue private certificates for shorter periods.
GPC negotiator Dr Chand Nagpaul told Pulse he endorsed the ‘pragmatic’ approach being taken by some LMCs.
He said: ‘There is no legal obligation on GPs to issue any private certificate on the first day of illness. The rules governing self-certification are absolutely clear and they apply equally on November 30.’
‘As some trusts are requiring employees to attend a GP surgery, it seems sensible that LMCs and practices are finding pragmatic ways to avoid wasting patients’ and GPs’ time on administrative issues, which have been created by individual trust policies.’
‘NHS Employers have made a recommendation that’s going to inconvenience large number of patients and GPs,’ he added. ‘It’s unfair that patients should have to incur the costs of private certification.’
However, trusts differ wildly on their approach to NHS Employers’ advice. Dr Minmagh said: ‘We have written to NHS chief executives in Merseyside. Aintree Hospitals NHS Trust has given us assurances that staff won’t require sicknotes, but the others have not seen sense.’
The LMC has also received a letter from Dr Stephen Cox, chair of NHS Halton and St Helen’s CCC and Medical Director of NHS Merseyside stating: ‘I support your stance regarding sicknotes.’
East Yorkshire and Lincolnshire LMC has received similar assurances from North Lincolnshire and Goole NHS Trust that it will not be implementing the sick note policy.
Wessex has not been notified if any of the 11 NHS trusts will be requiring sick notes. ‘Most of us would be less sympathetic to NHS trusts who do this,’ said Dr Watson. ‘They know the pressure there would be on them if GPs instructed everybody to attend hospitals.’