Doctors to get help with signing thousands off sick in west Lincolnshire

Doctors in west Lincolnshire sign 11 fit notes, on average, every day according to the latest NHS figures.

GPs working in the NHS West Lincolnshire CCG issued a total of 3,995 notes between July 2017 and June this year.

Doctors have signed off thousands of fit notes in the last year. Photo: PA/Anthony Devlin

Doctors have signed off thousands of fit notes in the last year. Photo: PA/Anthony Devlin

But the rules are to be changed to allow other health workers to sign people off sick, reducing the workload faced by doctors.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) says that it will legislate to allow other health professionals to certify people as unable to work.

The move has been welcomed by doctors’ leaders, who say it will ease the pressure on GPs.

People in work need a fit note, previously called a sick note, if they are off work for more than seven days. Up to that point they can self-certify that they are unwell.

Across England, 5.7 million fit notes were handed out over the 12 months to the end of June.

A DWP spokesman 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.”

In west Lincolnshire, the average monthly rate of fit notes was 2,750 per 100,000 working age people registered with a GP.

The most common reasons that doctors signed people off work were mental and behavioural disorders, particularly stress, and muscoskeletal conditions, such as back problems.

Of the 3,995 notes signed over the 12 months in west Lincolnshire, 439 were issued for mental health issues and 208 for back problems.

The number of fit notes signed in west Lincolnshire from July 2017 to June this year is down on the previous 12 months despite under-reporting in February caused by technical issues in gathering the data.

Despite being called fit notes, almost all of those issued classify people as unfit for work.

This was the case for 94 per cent of the notes handed out across the country.

However, fit notes are also used to advise patients and their employers on getting back to work.

This includes recommendations for an employee to make a phased return, or work reduced hours or with limited duties.

Women were signed off sick more than men, receiving 57 per cent of the fit notes issued across England in the last 12 months.