Occupational health professionals have rejected the attempts of the British Medical Association to change the way that fit notes operate within the healthcare system.
It was intended that this new BMA approach would help reduce GP workload.
The BMA voted overwhelmingly at its annual representative meeting earlier this year that “there should be an extension of self-certification for illness from seven to 14 days”.
It had been suggested that the Fitness to Work scheme places too much of a burden on GPs.
But occupational health professionals suggest that the existing period is perfectly acceptable for both patients and employees.
Indeed, it enables an early conversation regarding how employees may be helped to return to working environments.
The Faculty of Occupational Medicine outlined its position in a public statement.
“We understand the strain GPs are under but from a patient perspective it is in their best interest to have a conversation sooner rather than later about how they might best return to work if they “may be for fit for work. That conversation starts with their GP and their employer”.
The faculty argued that “getting employees successfully back to work is in everyone’s interests” because “stable employment is important to good health”, adding that “the longer an employee is off work the more difficult it is to return successfully”.
Additionally, a major survey conducted by The At Work Partnership found that 90% of occupational health professionals disagree with the proposals of the British Medical Association.
Commenting on the issue, GPC deputy chair Dr Richard Vautrey suggested that most doctors challenge the ideas of the British Medical Association.
“There was strong support from the BMA’s ARM for this idea from across the range of doctors present at the meeting. It’s also not just about reducing GPs workload but to empower patients to a greater extent. However it does not prevent patients discussing issues with their GP when it is clinically appropriate and necessary for them to do so, and so there is no reason to believe that it would mean people would be off work any longer than they needed to be. As now, if any individual was abusing the system, this should be an issue for employers to deal with”.
Meanwhile, the government is still investigating the possibility of allowing non-doctors to sign off fit notes, in an attempt to reduce the workload of GPs.