Leading doctors push changes to sick note system

01 July 2016

Leaders of the British Medical Association (BMA) want the time an employee is off work because they have certified themselves as sick to be doubled from one to two weeks before they need to see a GP.

According to an HR Review news report, staff who fall ill should be able to stay off work for up to two weeks before they need a sick note in order to relieve the strain on overstretched GPs, leading doctors believe.

Requiring a sick note after one week takes time away from patients who may need appointments more, according to Dr Richard Vautrey, deputy chairman of the BMA’s GP committee.

Vautrey speaks before the BMA debates a motion at its annual conference which “demands that certification of fitness to work (‘fit notes’) need not be done by a medical professional and that there should be an extension of self-certification for illness from seven to 14 days”.

Doctors also want the law changed so that other health professionals such as midwives, physiotherapists and senior nurses, can also sign sick notes. But organisations representing employers rejected the call and warned that it could lead to more people staying off work falsely claiming to be ill.

The Department of Work and Pensions said it would not alter how sick notes operate. “The system was set up following consultation and we believe it supports individuals and employers without overburdening GPs. We have no plans to change the existing policy.”

The BMA’s call comes as GP leaders urge the NHS to enable patients to bypass seeing a family doctor and get treated by a physiotherapist, mental health specialist or experienced nurse instead to help tackle the building stresses of GP work.

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