Concern over sick notes overhaul

October 11, 2007

From ‘Pulse' the weekly newsletter for GPs

Further moves towards relieving GPs of duties for writing sick notes have sparked controversy, after a GPC negotiator said he feared the issue was being hijacked by politicians seeking to cut social benefits.

Pulse revealed last week that Professor Dame Carol Black, the Director of Work and Pensions, was planning to hand responsibility for Med 3 forms to so-called ‘back to work teams'.

It was confirmed this week that Professor Black is consulting with GPs on the move, which will be welcomed by many GPs, who are believed to write on average 30,000 sick notes in their careers.

In a new development, former health minister Caroline Flint, now minister of state for employment and welfare reform, confirmed the Government was piloting a so-called Pathways Advisory Service with some GP surgeries, targeted at patients claiming incapacity benefit or statutory sick pay.

However, GPC negotiator Dr Chaand Nagpaul said he had fears about the pilot. He said: ‘I would want to be reassured that this was not simply the Government's attempt to cut their incapacity costs. Adequate safeguards must be put in place to make sure patients are appropriately facilitated, not bullied. They must not just see their benefits slashed.'

But Dr George Moncrieff, a GP in Bicester, Oxfordshire, who is involved in Professor Black's consultation group, said the system was pointless as ‘GPs are not prepared to fall out with their patient over whether or not they should be at work'.

He added: ‘Filling in a Med 3 with a quasi excuse at the bottom justifying a patient not being at work – which often isn't the full truth – isn't helping anybody.'

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