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Fit notes “not delivering” says EEF

More than 40% of employers believe fit notes are not helping employees return to work, according to research from the Engineering Employers' Federation (EEF).

The fit note, which was introduced in April 2010, allows doctors to make recommendations to ease people back into work after periods of poor health. Only 22% of companies said that the scheme had resulted in earlier returns to work, compared to 43% who said that it had not, according to the EEF/Jelf Employee Benefits survey

EEF head of health and safety policy, Terry Woolmer said that they have supported the fit note since day one. “However, the evidence is now clear five years on that it’s not delivering on helping people back to work earlier," he said.

"In fact, the evidence suggests that the quality of advice being given by GPs to help people back to work is deteriorating. It can still be made to work but government now needs to put its shoulder to the wheel with greater resources." 

He added: "The first step must be to ensure that all GPs and hospital doctors are trained in health and work issues so they feel confident in giving proper advice.”  

In January the Work Foundation released a report that offered 12 recommendations on health in the workplace, including incentivising the NHS to see work as a positive health outcome for those with long-term and fluctuating conditions. 

Karen Steadman, senior researcher for the Work Foundation, agreed that there are still problems with the fit note system. “Good quality work can be good for health in many circumstances – and it is important to increase GP awareness of the many benefits that work can have for those who want it, and look at how we might better support people to achieve it.

“Improving communication between the employee, their GP, and their employer is the way to make fit notes more effective.”