· News

Fit note Britain? GPs confirm fit notes help staff back to work

A year after the launch of the fit note, general practitioners agree it has made a positive impact on the speed their patients are returning to work.

According to the General practitioners' attitudes towards patients' health and work report from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), 61% of GPs somewhat or completely agreed that the fit note had improved the quality of their discussions with patients about return to work.

The notes tell employers what tasks employees would be capable of doing in the workplace to speed up their return. For example, an employee with a mobility problem could return to work if their job was adapted so they did not have to stand up or move around the workplace.

Just under half (48%) agreed that it had increased the frequency with which they recommend return to work as an aid to patient recovery and 70% agreed the fit note had helped their patients make a phased return to work.

Almost all GPs agree that work is beneficial for people's health (99%) and that helping patients stay in or return to work is an important part of their role (88% of GPs were in agreement).

Speaking to HR magazine, Mark Simpson, medical director of AXA ICAS, said: "These are welcome findings and show that much of the scepticism that met the launch of the Fit Note was unfounded. "Getting general practitioners to accept that, generally speaking, work is good for people's health and wellbeing is a significant positive step. So too is their engaging with the fit note as an impetus for consideration of patients' capability for some work "The challenge for employers remains to respond constructively to GPs' support for encouraging an early return to work of ill or injured employees. "With assistance and input from HR and occupational health, I'm confident that this will, increasingly, become a reality and help to reduce UK employers' unnecessarily high levels of sickness absence."