Employers believe GPs do not do enough to help people with mental health problems back in to work, with four out of 10 rating GP support as either very or fairly poor, according to research.
The latest Labour Market Outlook report, by HR organisation the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) and consultancy KPMG, came as the government unveiled a raft of ideas to improve the treatment of people with such conditions (see box, below right).
The survey of 625 employers found that just a fifth rated GPs as being good or very good in this area.
The CIPD has called for a radical revamp of the way GPs help people with mental health problems successfully return to work.
The survey also found employers received medical reports from GPs for just half of employees off work with long-term mental health problems, even though seven out of 10 said they asked GPs to provide such a report.
The report also showed strong support among employers for a revamped Med 3 sick note. The government is poised to unveil a redesigned sickness certification form, which has been nicknamed the ‘fit note’, early next year.
It is thought this will be a bigger form to enable GPs to provide more information on what employees are still able to do, and will also be in an electronic format to speed up communication.
Nearly eight in 10 employers believed such a form would be effective or fairly effective, while half welcomed the idea of an electronic sick note system. They also wanted to see improved training for GPs on fitness for work issues, as well as changes to GPs’ contracts to encourage them to work more closely with employers – something supported by seven in 10 employers.
Ben Willmott, CIPD employee relations adviser, said: “GPs are letting down patients signed off work with mental health problems by not communicating effectively with employers.
“All too often, the reality today is a quickly scribbled note signing someone off for another period of weeks. This can contribute to long-term sickness absence, and often to extended periods on incapacity benefits,” he added.
New sick note set to focus on fitness for work
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has said the new Med 3 sick note will put the emphasis on “capacity” rather than “incapacity”, and will make it easier for GPs to provide advice on fitness for work, especially for people with mental health conditions.
The announcement coincided with plans to create a new £8m advice and support service for employers, especially smaller businesses, to encourage better management and support of people with mental health conditions.
The programme, which will initially be piloted around the country, could also advise GPs on the issue.
The DWP has also said it plans to treble the number of employment advisers in GP surgeries, and reform eligibility for incapacity benefit by introducing a new work capability assessment.