Doctors have voted in favour of a call to reduce GP workload by extending the period that workers can self-certify illness.
As it stands, employers can ask workers to produce a sick note from their doctor after seven days off sick, but GPs at the BMA’s Annual Representatives Meeting argued this was a waste of their time.
Former GPC negotiator Dr Peter Holden told the meeting of a single day when 10% of his consultations were to certify people off sick for between seven and 14 days, including one request for a sick note that came from a hospital.
Dr Holden said hospital staff could write their own sick notes, and added: ‘Isn’t it bleeding obvious that a binman with a plaster of Paris cast can’t do his job, and he is going to be off work for a week or two?’
Following a debate, doctors voted overwhelmingly that ‘there should be an extension of self-certification for illness from 7 to 14 days’ and that ‘a change in legislation is required to allow other health care professional such as midwives, allied health professionals and nurse practitioners to complete fit notes for patients’.
The session also saw delegates pass a motion for the BMA to ‘undertake an immediate and necessary workload analysis that can define safe limits of working in general gpractice’, which GPC chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul argued was ‘long overdue’ and crucial to ensure ‘patient safety’.
Dr Nagpaul opened the general practice debate with a speech in which he said general practice pressures had ‘sunk to new depths’, with GPs operating in an ‘unsafe’ environment.
Motions in full
- That this meeting believes in order to preserve patient safety, the BMA should undertake an immediate and necessary workload analysis that can define safe limits of working in General Practice.
- That this meeting demands that certification of fitness to work (‘fit notes’) need not be done by a medical professional and that: i) there should be an extension of self-certification for illness from 7 to 14 days; ii) a change in legislation is required to allow other health care professional such as midwives, allied health professionals and nurse practitioners to complete ‘fit notes’ for patients; and iii) the Department of Work and Pensions should establish their own means of determining benefits.