Role of GPs questioned again

The BBC has recently reported a huge variation between GPs in the same Trust when faced with signing off employees following surgery or heart attack. Only 1 in 20 surveyed followed government advice on sick leave whilst the average amount of training they had received in sickness certification was 4 hours. I can’t help but think that GPs play a major role in absence statistics, one that is very rarely investigated if at all. 

Whilst one of the key Health Work and Wellbeing initiatives following the Black report is GP training in occupational health to support the introduction of the ‘Fit Note’, I don’t think enough attention has been paid to what impact the current situation is having on the colossal figures quoted around absence and the cost to the economy.

Employers can’t manage absence effectively if GPs are not playing their part in getting people back to work. Even the Royal College of GPs recommends that overall GP training is extended from to four to five years. This would enable GPs to spend significantly more time on occupational health than they are ever going to get through the ‘Fit Note’ roll out.

The maxim that good work is good for health is now widely accepted. What better way to ingrain this into the work culture than train GPs to recognise it and put it into practice. A half day awareness course is just not enough. It needs to be a subject in its own right for trainee GPs.

I’d love to know how much unnecessary, signed off sick leave is costing the economy. Add in absence costs due to NHS wait times and you would certainly put absence figures into a context that would help us all understand the respective responsibilities of government and employers in reducing the overall figures.

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