GPC negotiator Dr Peter Holden said the GPC was not consulted about the roll-out of the electronic fit note, called eMed, and urged GPs to ask PCTs to provide paper fit notes to avoid the cost of printing them out at the practice.
Dr Holden said: ‘This has been dumped on us without consultation. It is another example of costs being dumped on GPs. You may think "how petty can you get?" but it all adds up. This work and costs is quietly moving from the PCTs onto GPs.
‘It is not convenient when you are on a visit as you have to wait until you get to the practice to do it unless you carry some PCT issued fit notes.’
However, a spokesman for the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) said: 'The electronic fit-note was developed with the support of GPs to make sure it provides greater benefits than the existing paper-based process. GPs will still have access to pads of fit notes if needed.'
The first practices to use the electronic fit note will be those with the EMIS IT system. The DH said other suppliers will introduce the capability 'over the coming months’.
It said that IT providers will contact GP practices prior to introduction to supply information and training on the technical aspects.
Once printed, signed and issued, an electronic fit note is designed to be used in the same way as a handwritten fit note, including for both sick pay and benefits. The DH said GPs will not be able or expected to send a fit note electronically to patients, employers, or the DWP.