In a potentially groundbreaking study, researchers from Nottingham University will investigate the best way to use fit notes to facilitate a timely return to work for those with health conditions.
The investigation has been commissioned by the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH), which said that it will be the first to consider the views of patients, employers and GPs when looking into the way in which fit notes are used.
Carol Coole, senior research fellow on the project, said: “There is an indirect link between our research and long-term benefit recipients. Most work is good for our health and often people with health conditions can stay at work – or return to work – through quite simple measures.”
Avril Drummond, professor of healthcare research at the university, who will lead the study, added: “We want to know how fit notes are being used, how useful they are in helping people return to and stay at work, and how they could be used more effectively.”
Data collection and evaluation for the programme has already started and a panel-based “Delphi” study will be carried out between April and July next year.
A final report on the findings is expected to be submitted at the end of September, the university added.
Jane White, research and information services manager at IOSH, said: “The first four to six weeks of a person being absent from work is a critical window, and without proactive intervention this could lead to long-term sickness absence.
“Therefore, the doctor’s fit note is a vital link between a person, their employer, and them going to work with the right support when they are able. So we need to ensure that it works as effectively as it should, and this research plays an important role in doing that.”