GPs not engaging with fit notes

DOCTORS are not using the 'fit note' system as intended, according to a survey of HR professionals.

An XpertHR report found that 62 per cent of HR professionals felt that fit notes had not helped them to better manage sickness absence and 65 per cent said that fit notes had not helped them to reduce overall absence.

A prime aim of the fit note system introduced by the Government over two years ago was for doctors to offer employers greater clarity on the nature of any condition preventing an employee’s ability to return to work. GPs are asked to tick a "may be fit for work" option and provide more detailed medical information about how the employee can be eased back into work.

In the survey, 78 per cent of the respondents said the "may be fit for work" option had either never been ticked in any fit notes received or had been ticked in fewer than one in four cases over the past two years. And 38 per cent of organisations reported that GPs never provided any comments on fit notes. When doctors did offer advice, 73 per cent of employers went against that advice and made alternative arrangements to facilitate a return to work.

A Government review published in 2011 found problems with the fit note system which are echoed in the XpertHR report. Report author Charlotte Wolff said: "[The Government review] concluded that too many people are still being declared completely unfit for work by their GPs, and that where a GP does tick the 'may be-fit for work' option they rarely provide helpful advice.

"Our research echoes these findings and pinpoints the nub of the problem, which is that doctors appear to be too busy to use the fit note in an intelligent way and frequently have a limited understanding of the nature of the employee's work."

However, 68 per cent of respondents did fell that the introduction of fit notes had helped to stimulate a more open dialogue on employees' return to work after illness.

Source: Personnel Today

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