Home >Industry, government, and professional bodies agree ‘Fit Note’ way forward

Industry, government, and professional bodies agree ‘Fit Note’ way forward

17 December 2013

The first sickness absence summit on the Fit Note and long-term sickness absence agrees measures to help return to work.

Government, employers, the medical profession and other professional bodies held the first ever summit this month on the Fit Note and long-term sickness absence. Key stakeholders at the summit agreed on a number of measures on how we can make best use of the Fit Note and to reduce unnecessary sickness absence.

EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation had called for a summit earlier in the summer on the back of its annual sickness absence survey of its members, which showed an increasing number of employers believing the Fit Note was not yet resulting in employees making an earlier return to work and that the average duration of long-term sickness absence increasing over the past 5 years, both key factors in promoting economic growth.

The summit featured representatives from 24 organisations including the Department for Work & Pensions (DWP), the British Medical Association (BMA), the Royal College of GPs (RCGP), EEF and the other main stakeholders. It was organised to create a forum for discussion between Government, employers, the medical profession and other professional bodies in order to:

• Secure stakeholder commitments on making best use of the fit note by employers, medical professionals and employees and
• Share novel and innovative solutions to help reduce the length of long-term sickness absence from work
Professor Sayeed Khan, Chief Medical Adviser for EEF said: "Enabling an earlier return to work is a key factor in promoting economic growth. It is important to make the fit note work better for both patients/employees who want to make an earlier return to work. EEF is committed to improving the dialogue between the medical professional and employer. To help this we will develop a templatewhich employees can give to their GP describing the adaptations and modifications their employer can make to facilitate earlier return to work."

Dr Bill Gunnyeon, Chief Medical Adviser for the DWP, said: "Getting the most out of the fit note is a key part of effective sickness absence management - and requires action byemployers, line managers, individuals and doctors. Our substantial programme of research shows that the fit note is starting to have an impactand by early next year almost 100 per cent of GP practices will be able to use the computer-generated fit note. This completes our national rollout programme. Over time we will publish more information on how the fit note is being used to improve our understanding of working age sickness absence. We are also introducing the Health and Work Service to help employees who have been on sickness absence for four weeks to return to work, support employers to better manage sickness absence among their workforce and give GPs access to work-related health support for their patients."

John Chisholm, representing the RCGP, said: "We recognise the need to ensure all GPs are fully engaged with the effective operation of the fit note so that employees are helped to get back to work earlier through the ‘fit for work’ and ‘may be fit for work’ assessment process. The RCGP is committed to the continuation of its national education programme on health and work in general practice. The RCGP will also aim to raise the profile of the fit note by embedding health and work in the continuing education of all GPs including those in training."

John Canning, spokesperson from the BMA said: "We recognise the necessity to make the fit note function more effectively for the patient. There is a recognition by the BMA that ‘good work’ improves both physical and mental health. Our commitment to this process is to help the non GP medical professional understand their part in the fit note process and consider the work element of patients who are discharged from hospital following treatment or who return as outpatients."