Fit notes will 'reduce number of consultations'

The introduction of UK GPs writing 'fit notes' should reduce the number of consultations, according to the chief medical adviser to the Department for Work and Pensions.

GP Dr Bill Gunnyeon told the RCGP conference that one of the key differences between the new and old forms was that there would be a ‘fit for some work' option.

This would mean that the onus would transfer to the employer once the GP had completed the fit note.

Dr Gunnyeon said: ‘One of the problems has been that the patient might want to go back to work and you think they can't do everything. Now there is an option for you to say that.

‘We're not asking you to understand the patient's job, it's about helping to give you the opportunity to say that. It will then be for the employer to decide what the employee can actually do.'

Dr Gunnyeon explained that this would remove the need for the patient to return to the GP for further consultations.

However, one GP told Dr Gunnyeon about his frustrations when he allowed a patient with a fractured ankle to return to limited NHS work.

The GP said: ‘They came back to see me three times because the authorities would not allow them to return. They insisted on an occupational health appointment but this was not available for eight weeks.'

Dr Gunnyeon said that work was being done to try to convince employers of their responsibilities and that they would benefit if their employees could return to even limited work sooner.

The RCGP has been involved with work to develop a package of support to enable the introduction of fit notes in 2010.

So far 568 GPs have attended UK workshops with a total of 1,000 signed up to take part.

Dr Gunnyeon said that GPs' views on fit notes had changed over the last three years. A greater proportion were now aware of the evidence underpinning the benefits of work on health. However, 15 per cent still thought that a patient had to recover fully before they were fit to return to work.

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