Letters: Patients need support to aid a return to work

Occupational health doctors fully understand the difficulties that GPs face when signing sick notes (GP, 22 February).

It is difficult enough for the GP to know whether their patient is able to continue in their usual job, but to assess the patient's capacity for alternative work is much more difficult. Occupational health doctors are trained to work with employees and employers to rehabilitate people back into work.

Redesigning the sick note might be part of the answer, but the real issue is not getting GPs to do something 'different', but helping GPs to access support for their patients who can (and want to) return to work.

Both GPs and patients need access to the expertise that occupational health doctors and nurses offer and access to treatments such as physiotherapy and psychological support. Employers also need to be inventive and flexible in finding alternative jobs or modified work.

The Society of Occupational Medicine is working with national director for health and work Dame Carol Black and colleagues in the Faculty of Occupational Medicine and the RCGP to improve access to these services.

Dr Gordon Parker, president, Society of Occupational Medicine

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