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GPs concern over 'fit notes'

28th November 2008

GPs have said they are deeply concerned about the government's plan to bring in a new "fit note" system to replace sick notes for employees by next year.

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The Work and Pensions Secretary James Purnell said that the government wanted GPs to fill out electronic documents which would tell companies what work their employees were able to carry out.

According to a spokesperson for the Department of Work and Pensions, the new fit note would allow doctors to show what sort of tasks a person could do, as opposed to the sick note, which is provided to show they should not work.

She provided as an example the case of a patient with back pain and said a GP would be able to indicate whether the patient would be able to perform any lifting or bending at work while they recovered.

500 GPs are trialling the fit note system in its draft form, with the electronic version expected in 2009.

The government is introducing the system as part of new proposals designed to reduce the number of people claiming incapacity benefit.

GPC chair Dr Laurence Buckman stated that GPs had been calling for reviews of the system for more than ten years.

"The new 'fit note' has potential, but we would like to see the findings of this evaluation because it’s crucial GPs can continue to act as the patient’s advocate and don’t end up policing the system for the Department for Work and Pensions," he said.

 

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