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Don’t blame GPs for fit note shambles

The fact that 40% of Employment Support Allowance appeals overturned decisions to deny patients benefits last year has no implication for patients objecting to what GPs put on fit notes under the new system from 6 April this year.

Surely it has long been known that whether a patient passes or fails the benefits medical bears no relation to what the GP puts on the Med3.

I have more than two years’ experience of using the New Zealand system, upon which the new ‘fit note’ is partly based, and it worked a lot better than ours. There is evidence that Job Centre paper-pushers keep trying to ‘reject’ opinions given by GPs just to suit their own targets and make their own jobs easier.

There has been a lot of pressure for GPs to undergo training in the use of fit notes, in their own time and at their own expense.

But it seems no thought has been given to educating employers and benefits staff in the merits of getting patients back to work.

There has been evidence of doctors being allowed to work in consultant grades in the NHS (with a statutory requirement to complete Med3s) with absolutely no training nor even knowledge of what the forms are.

It is about time the emphasis moved from ‘educating stick-in-the-mud GPs’ who are at least trying to get the system to work, to removing the real obstacles to the system – consultants and Job Centre staff.

I have had patients who are clearly unfit being denied benefits, and others who would benefit from therapeutic work, but are continually sent back to the GP for another sick note when it is not appropriate for them to have one.

From Dr David Church, Machynlleth, Powys