OH professionals are being over-looked by ministers as a potentially crucial go-between to help convince sceptical GPs and employers that the new fit note can work.
A report by health insurer Aviva, The health of the workplace, highlighted an ongoing lack of belief in, and limited awareness of, the fit note among GPs and employers.
Yet the fact that OH professionals have a foot in both camps could mean they are well placed to break down barriers, Dr Doug Wright, principal clinical consultant at Aviva UK Health, argued.
“Occupational health practitioners are the missing piece of the jigsaw but can perform a potentially crucial support role in bridging the knowledge gap between employers, HR, managers, GPs and workers.
“Without this engagement, the introduction of fit notes may cause more problems than it solves,” Wright said.
Nearly two-thirds of GPs – 65% – polled said they felt ill-equipped to provide fit notes to workers, a figure that has gone up by 1% since Aviva’s similar 2009 study.
A total of 68% were sceptical that fit notes had any effect on absence levels, up from 54% in 2009.
A poll of 500 employers by the insurer at the start of this year, before the fit note was launched in April, found just 5% believed it would reduce absence rates, one in 10 worried it would be hard and more than two-thirds had little or no knowledge about it.