Sheffield Occupational Health and Safety Association :: View topic - Statement of Fitness for Work to replace existing Sick-Note

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 04, 2010 1:07 pm Reply with quote Back to top
Social Security (Medical Evidence) and the Statutory Sick Pay (Medical Evidence) (Amendment) Regulations 2010

The Social Security (Medical Evidence) and the Statutory Sick Pay (Medical Evidence) (Amendment) Regulations 2010 have been laid before parliament and are due to come into effect on 6 April 2010. From this point GPs in England, Scotland and Wales will be required to issue the new Statement of Fitness for Work, 'fit-notes', rather than the current sick note form to those suffering from ill-health.

The existing medical statement, or 'Sick Note', has been around in its’ present format since the 1920s and its’ replacement adds additional options for what an individual may do – for example a GP can recommend a phased return to work, changes to the workplace/job-role or altered hours.

The new fit-note system was originally proposed by Dame Carol Black’s Review of the Health of the Working-Age Population, “Working for a healthier tomorrow”, which urged a radical reform of the UK health system, including more than 30 recommendations to improve work-related health services to keep people who are in work health and those who do fall ill to get the help needed to make a prompt return.

(Med 3 - Statement of Fitness for Work - Sample Image)

These updated notes provide more information than the existing system and the main changes will be:
  • GP will declare whether they consider an individual ‘not fit for work’ or ‘may be fit for work’;
  • GP can include additional advice to the note for the employer of the individual regarding simple changes to the job that may allow an earlier return to work;
  • A reduced number of statement forms issued by GPs.

The government concluded not to include a 'fully fit for work' option due to the fact that “doctors do not need to have comprehensive knowledge or understanding of an individual’s job role or need any special occupational health expertise”, highlighting that “suggestions made by the doctor will be based on the patient’s health condition and not job-specific”. It is expected that the new scheme will “encourage further discussions between the doctor and their patient, as well as between the employee and their employer regarding the potential options that could be considered which may help a return to work”. Thus acknowledging industrial environments and potential problems faced when facilitating an early return to work, whilst encouraging individuals to have these conversations with their employer to determine possible avenues for an early return.

I am aware that many members see this move as a forward step in assisting employers with their own return to work policies and the government foresee “an overall improvement in health from an earlier return to work” and that this move “should lead to subsequent savings to the NHS and longer-term benefits including a reduction in long-term sickness absence and flows onto health-related benefits”. Sick leave currently costs the economy £100bn a year, including the loss of about 172 million working days.

This new scheme will be evaluated through a number of methods and the government will commission qualitative and quantitative research to be published after 2-3 years in 2012/13 which will be compared with sickness absence data.

The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) will be providing further guidance for GPs, HR professionals, payroll managers, employers and employees following further discussions with their working group. They will also be piloting, in a limited number of locations, a telephone occupational health focused advice service.

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