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GPs will not have to sign fit notes for hospital patients under new contract

GPs will not be required to write fit notes for patients if they are seen in hospital, under the new hospital standard contract.

The new two-year contract, which will come into effect from April this year, makes it mandatory for hospitals to write fit notes for patients that were admitted by hospital staff, discharged or attended an outpatient clinic.

The contract said the fit note must be valid until the patient is recovered or until a clinical review is needed.

Last year, the Government began consulting on whether healthcare professionals besides ‘doctors in primary care and other settings’ should be able to certify fit notes because the Fitness to Work scheme was not achieving what it was set up to do.

Dr Farah Jameel, workload management lead for the GPC, described the new obligation for hospitals as ‘a win’ for GPs.

Speaking at Pulse Live in London today, she said: ‘If a patient is seen in hospital, it’s up to the hospital to write that fit note. If they’ve had general hip replacement they can sign that patient off, thank you very much.’

She advised GPs in the audience that if a hospital asks them to write a fit note, ‘make sure you say no, and bounce that back to the hospital’, adding that the BMA will be releasing more templates through their ‘Quality First’ guidance website to help GPs respond.

The BMA’s Urgent Prescription for General Practice has previously called for self-certification of illness to be extended from seven days to 14 days to cut down on GP workload.

The new contract will also ask hospitals to send a letter to a GP within 10 days of their patient visiting an outpatient clinic. This deadline will shorten to seven days after April 2018, and by October 2018 all letters must be sent electronically.