GPs question effectiveness of fit note for return to work

GPs remain sceptical about the effectiveness of the fit note, a major poll of family doctors by insurer Legal & General has concluded.

More than a year after its launch, half of the more than 1,000 GPs surveyed said that the fit note had not enhanced their ability to help people keep their job during an illness.

However, a sizeable minority (41%) disagreed.

On the role of GPs in helping people to keep their jobs during an illness, the doctors were also fairly evenly split, with 47% disagreeing that the new system gave them a clearer role, against 46% who agreed and 7% who did not know.

The effectiveness of the fit note is likely to be a key element of the review into workplace absence launched by the Government in February, which is being led by national director for work and health Dame Carol Black and David Frost, director-general of the British Chambers of Commerce, and is expected to report later this year.

Diane Buckley, managing director of Legal & General’s Group Income Protection, said: “These figures show that while progress is being made, there is still some way to go in helping people to get the right support in place at work when they are ill. Our experience suggests that many employers also lack the specialist expertise to interpret the implications of a fit note for an employee’s return to work.

“What’s important is for employers, doctors and employees to work together to make sure that tailored, individual support is delivered quickly.”

In addition, Dr John Delfosse, a practising GP and Legal & General’s consulting medical officer, warned that the ambiguity of the fit note was one area of concern.

“The GP statement is advisory only and if not accepted by the employer reverts back to a sick note. This has led to ambiguity and confusion. It has highlighted the need for closer cooperation between the medical profession and employers. The availability of appropriate support for employers will significantly enhance this evolving process,” he said.

The latest XpertHR research canvases employer opinion on how the fit note system is working in practice.

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