Revealed – The number of people signed off sick in Suffolk and north Essex each day
- Credit: PA
The numbers of people signed off work by GPs in Suffolk and Essex each day has been revealed – as new measures are introduced to ease the workload faced by doctors.
Doctors in the Ipswich and East Suffolk area sign 11 fit notes - previously known as ‘sick notes’ – on average, every day according to the latest NHS figures. A total of 3,914 notes were issued between July 2017 and June this year.
In west Suffolk, the figure is much higher – an average of 40 fit notes a day, and 14,504 notes in the same period.
And in north east Essex, the figure rises even higher, with 80 fit notes a day and 29,254 notes in total.
However, in a bid to ease pressures on GPs, the Department for Work and Pensions says that it will now allow other health care professionals to sign people off work.
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A spokesperson said: “We want to reduce the burden on GPs and that’s why we intend to legislate for the extension of fit note certification to other healthcare professionals. We will work with the NHS on this.”
The most common reasons that doctors signed people off work were mental and behavioural disorders, particularly stress, and musculoskeletal conditions, such as back problems.
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Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: “It is vital that a robust system is in place to ensure people are fit for work, and if they are not, then they have ready access to the appropriate care and services to improve their quality of life.”
The British Medical Association said that instead of involving a doctor, other health professionals that are treating a patient, such as a physiotherapist, should be able to certify fitness.
Dr Richard Vautrey, chair of the BMA GP committee, said: “At a time when admin has become increasingly burdensome in general practice, compounding existing workload issues, it makes perfect sense for the healthcare professional seeing the patient to issue fit notes where needed.
“This will remove the added layer of bureaucracy involved in getting it signed off by an individual GP.”
Despite being called fit notes, 94% all of those issued classify people as unfit for work.
They are also used to advise patients and their employees on getting back to work including recommendations on time scale, reduced hours or a phased return.