OH sicknote system to launch next year

Pilot schemes designed to pave the way for GPs to give up sick-note
certification by 2006 look set to begin in mid-2004.

According to Dr Simon Fradd – joint deputy chairman of the British Medical
Association’s GPs Committee, who has been leading the negotiations with the
Department of Health – money to be used for the pilots has been earmarked to
come on stream in the new financial year.

If successful, the pilots could lead to company doctors and occupational
health (OH) professionals becoming the first port of call for sick employees.

Last month, exclusive research by Personnel Today and sister magazine Doctor
revealed the shocking state of the sicknote system in the UK, and how it is
failing to protect employers from malingerers.

The research – which surveyed more than 300 doctors and 1,000 HR
professionals – found both sectors wanted the system to change, with many
favouring sicknote certification performed by company occupational health
specialists.

While those taking part in the pilots remains a closely guarded secret, a
number of large motor manufacturers are thought to be interested, along with a
police force, an NHS Plus organisation and at least one other multinational.

But a key government adviser has warned HR and OH professionals not to assume
the switchover is a fait accompli.

Dr Philip Sawney, principal medical adviser at the Department for Work and
Pensions, which has policy responsibility for the regulation and guidance of
sickness certification, said the intention was simply to make "significant
progress" towards national coverage by April 2006. GPs were bound to have
some level of input "for the foreseeable future", he predicted.

By Nic Paton

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