GPs have suggested that workers should be able to self-certify sickness for up to a fortnight, thus reducing the number of unnecessary GP appointments in the UK.
The government had introduced the existing system with the intention of reducing the number of sick days claimed by workers, particularly in the public sector.
Thus, patients currently require a doctor’s note if they are to be off work for more than one week, but GPs stated that people shouldn’t be trusted more, and that this can ultimately reduce the increasing burden on general practice and doctors.
The call at the British Medical Association’s annual conference comes amid rising demand for appointments.
However, despite the comments that the BMA event, the government indicated that it has no particular intention to review the existing policy.
In other news from the British Medical Association conference, it emerged that general practitioners wish to be paid for carrying out health checks on patients who apply for firearms licences.
Dr John Canning, a GP from Middlesbrough and chairman of the BMA’s professional fees committee, commented that the number of GP appointments caused by health notes was unacceptable, and extending the sick note period could have a massive influence on general practice.
“That’s half a dozen appointments that it will take up. That’s six people who don’t get seen. We’re busy enough doing the day job, curing the sick.”
Dr Richard Vautrey, a Leeds medic who sits on the BMA’s GPs committee, said combined with other issues, indicated that doubling the self-certification period would help reduce the strain on doctors and prevent the health service from being needlessly clogged up.
“If you’ve got a patient who very clearly has an illness that is going to last 10 days to two weeks, why do they need to make an appointment with a GP, just to get that note to tell their employer what their employer probably knows already, and what the patient should be trusted to be able to pass on?”
Nonetheless, despite the comments of doctors that the BMA conference, a spokesman from the Department for Work and Pensions indicated that the government department has no intention of changing the existing policy.
“The system was set up following consultation and we believe it supports individuals and employers without overburdening GPs.”
Last year, a report by Citizens Advice found that one-fifth of GPs’ time was taken up with non-health issues.