Britain’s family doctors are yet to be convinced about the effectiveness of the new sick note – Half of GPs say the new fit note system has not enhanced their ability to help people keep their job during an illness.

The findings, in new opinion research conducted by ComRes on behalf of Legal & General show that GPs are not yet convinced of the effectiveness of the fit note system:

50% of GPs say that the fit note system has not enhanced their ability to help people keep their job during an illness. A sizeable minority, 41%, disagree.

On the role of GPs in helping people keep their jobs during an illness they are also fairly evenly split: 47% disagree that the new system gives them a clearer role, 46% agree and 7% don’t know.

The last Government introduced the fit note to replace the sick note, designed to assess what people can do rather than what they can’t. To address concerns about managing illness at work, the Coalition Government has announced a review into workplace absence led by Dame Carol Black and David Frost.

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Diane Buckley, Managing Director of Legal & General’s Group Income Protection, commented:

“These figures show that while progress is being made there is still some way to go in helping people to get the right support in place at work when they are ill. Our experience suggests that many employers also lack the specialist expertise to interpret the implications of a fit note for an employee’s return to work. What’s important is for employers, Doctors and employees to work together to make sure that tailored, individual support is delivered quickly”.

Dr John Delfosse, a practising GP and Legal & General’s Consulting Medical Officer, commented:

“Previously GPs would issue a “sick note” advising an employer that their patient was unfit to perform the normal duties of their occupation. With the introduction of the new “fit note” GPs offer advice and guidance to the employer of their patients suitability to work in some capacity. The GP statement is advisory only and if not accepted by the employer reverts back to a sick note. This has led to ambiguity and confusion. It has highlighted the need for closer cooperation between the medical profession and employers. The availability of appropriate support for employers will significantly enhance this evolving process ”