GPs should be removed from the responsibility of sickness certification in the early days of absence, a GP leader told delegates at a recent conference on absence management.
Dr Peter Holden, chairman of the professional fees commission at the British Medical Association (BMA), said that one of the organisation’s new policy aims was to remove doctors from sickness certification or reporting requirements before the 28th day of incapacity. Holden said that employers should be investing more in OH to tackle the issue of absence and said that GPs did not have the resources to run an occupational health service.
“It’s a cop out,” said Holden. “The government would like you to believe that we [GPs] can provide an occupational health service to employers. But we can’t. We don’t have enough staff.”
This is despite plans in the government’s ‘Health, Work and Wellbeing’ strategy, launched in October 2005, to get GPs to do more to help identify work-related ill health and help incapacitated staff return to work.
Holden urged employers to help reduce red tape for GPs by no longer requiring certificates for days surrounding holidays and sports events, and to stop using the NHS as a free occupational health service.
He told delegates at the conference organised by Symposium Events that the BMA’s response to the government’s Green Paper, A New Deal for Welfare, launched in January 2006, had asked for a review of the requirements for medical evidence for sickness absence and to allow more time for GPs to make assessments. He also called for the “demolition of the public sector belief that sick leave is a right”.
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