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Back pain 'fit notes' unrealistic

2nd November 2009

According to research, the government's plan to bring in fit notes issued by GPs to get people to return to work could be "unrealistic".

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In a study of 440 GPs in Nottinghamshire, only a small number said they were responsible for the management of employment issues relating to people with back pain.

In March 2008 Dame Carol Black, the national director for care and work, said the sick note system would be overhauled, as it was costing £100 billion annually.

She said a new scheme should be brought in, in addition to "fit for work" programmes to aid people to return to their jobs after they had been ill.

The fit for work notes would be issued by GPs, who would inform employers about which tasks a person could carry out at work.

However, the study by researchers at Nottingham University, found that 77% of GPs said that they were not responsible for making patients go back to their jobs.

Two thirds of GPs said they did not fill in the remarks section on sick notes to pass on information to employers.

The same number of doctors said that local authorities should be responsible for helping people with back pain to deal with work issues.

Carolyn Coole, study leader and research occupational therapist, said the information revealed that doctors did not "readily engage" with encouraging people with back problems to go back to their jobs.

"The current government expectation that GPs are able to successfully manage this to manage this role may be unrealistic," she added.

 

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