Many GPs need training in how best to use the fit note, the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) has warned.
A study commissioned by IOSH and carried out by Nottingham University has concluded that, five years on from its introduction in 2010, GPs are still not using the fit note to its full potential.
The research made a wide range of recommendations, including that electronic or computer-generated fit notes should be standardised, the comments section should be modified to encourage GPs to write comments within the “not fit” as well as the “may be fit” box and GPs should be able to access a second, independent, opinion of a patient’s fitness to work.
The recommendations follow similar research carried out by the manufacturers’ organisation EEF and employee benefits firm Jelf, which concluded that insufficient numbers of GPs and medical professionals are properly trained in how to use the fit note.
The IOSH/Nottingham University research questioned GPs, patients and employers and collected 932 anonymised copies of current fit notes.
Dr Carol Coole, senior research fellow at Nottingham University’s School of Health Sciences, commented: “Our recommendations suggest that there should be better education and training in fit note use, as well as tighter management of the process and communication between surgeries, patients and employers.
These changes would allow people with health problems to stay at work more often, return to work sooner or be helped to return through changes in hours, tasks, conditions or environment,” she added.
Jane White, head of research and information services at IOSH, added: “Our research has shown that the GP fit note has the potential to do much more and play a pivotal role in helping people stay in work or get back to work as soon as they can.”