Date Published: 1 April 2010

New fit note means onus is now on employers to act, according to the BMA (UK).

Health News from the United Kingdom (UK).
The new fit note will mean the onus is now on employers to help get their staff back to work, but more needs to be done to ensure they are fully aware of the changes, according to the British Medical Association (BMA).

On Tuesday 6 April 2010 the sick note will be replaced by a new fit note. Commenting on the change Dr Laurence Buckman, Chairman of the BMA’s GPs Committee, said:

Being in work is good for people’s health and wellbeing and it’s for that reason the BMA is pleased that the sick note system has finally been overhauled. It should reduce the number of forms used and will provide a better way for a GP to give advice about a patient to their employer.

Most importantly, from today the responsibility will be on employers to act: if a GP decides their patient is capable of some form of work, for example if they’ve got back pain and they should temporarily avoid elements of their normal job, then it will be down to the employer to be flexible enough to accommodate them. However, we think much more needs to be done to ensure employers, in particular local line managers, have enough information about the changes. Many may not realise, for example, there’s no need to insist that an employee sees their GP simply to get signed back to work; in most cases that is not necessary. The BMA would like to see a publicity campaign aimed at employers and patients so everyone affected is fully aware of what it will mean for them.

GPs also need to be careful they are not drawn into making comments they are not qualified to make, because, unlike occupational health doctors, they are not often in a position to know the details of the patient’s working conditions, neither do they have specialist knowledge of workplace hazards. Occupational health doctors have a central role in helping people back to work, but, unfortunately, only one worker in eight has access to an occupational health doctor. Employers have a responsibility to provide adequate occupational health services and the government must encourage them to provide that if the overall plan to help more people back to work is to be truly effective.


Source: British Medical Association..

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