GPs Call For Workers To Self-Certify Illness For 14 Days

Calls Come From Medical Conference To Reduce Strain On Appointments


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Employment experts at Irwin Mitchell encourage return to work interviews to reduce the amount of sick days after doctors say that workers should be trusted to self-certify illness to reduce the growing burden on GPs.

Currently, workers need a doctor’s note if they are off work for longer than a week, but during the British Medical Association’s (BMA) annual conference, doctors called for staff to self-certify their illness to reduce the rising demand for GP appointments.

The government has said that they have no plans to change the existing self-certification scheme.

Doctors are asked by police to report any health conditions that may present a risk, but these assessments can take up to an hour which uses “valuable NHS resources.” Doctors also requested to be paid for carrying out health checks on patients who apply for firearms licences.

Although both issues represent a small share of the GP workload, a Leeds medic who sits on the BMA GP’s committee, Dr Richard Vautrey, told media that when combined with other issues, they could start to help reduce the burden if changes were made.

He continued to say that doubling the length of time someone is able to self-certify illness would be “sensible” in helping ease the strain.

It is estimated that GPs in England carry out 370 million appointments a year - a rise of 70 million in the past seven years.

Last year, a report by Citizens Advice found that a fifth of GPs' time was taken up with non-health issues.

The BMA conference in Belfast will debate the matter at a later date.

Glenn Hayes, employment expert at Irwin Mitchell, said:


Expert Opinion
“A large survey conducted last year by XpertHR indicated that the median figures for absence were 5.7 days per employee - less than a week – so in practice, these GP proposals would not make much difference to employers.

“Intermittent absences can be harder for employers to manage and often cause more disruption to a business than longer term conditions. It is possible that employees may take more days off sick, perhaps to fully recover from their illness before returning to work, if they do not have to visit a doctor.

“That said, most GPs will take their patient’s word for how they are feeling and, if asked, will often provide a fit note. Employers are required to accept a fit note at face value unless they have convincing evidence which casts doubt on whether the employee is genuinely ill.

“The best way to manage short or intermittent staff absences is to hold return to work interviews and find out more about the nature of the employee’s illness, whether it is likely to recur and what steps they took to manage the condition - such as taking over the counter medicines, seeing their doctor or simply staying at home and resting. Employees that expect to have a discussion about their illness are much less likely to take “sickies” or to stay off work longer than necessary.”
Glenn Hayes, Partner