GPs are shifting their approach away from signing employees off sick towards supporting return to work, said Professor Mark Gabbay of the University of Liverpool, who has researched the topic.
“We are much more working towards a return to work as a key outcome in health services,” he said.
He said it was important for GPs and OH practitioners to assess an employee’s optimism about returning to work from the outset.
“There’s a key question to ask early on: ‘Do you trust you will be coming back to work in the near future?’ That’s a bigger part of what you need to be doing from early on.”
Gabbay said patients who presented with a range of symptoms were more likely to go on long-term sick leave. “These are the ones you have to be really working with because they are not going to go back to work without a shove, without lots of support from you.”
He advised that managers should be involved in assessing fitness to return to work as well as the OH team.