EEF calls for new approach to ‘fit note’
The government’s flagship ‘fit note’ scheme for getting people back to work has failed to deliver five years on from implementation, seriously hampering the UK’s attempts to improve its sickness absence performance and reduce unnecessary sickness absence.
That is the overriding message from EEF and Jelf Employee Benefits in their survey of 345 manufacturing companies, published earlier this week. The findings reveal that far from aiding economic growth and improving productivity by getting people back to work earlier, the situation has failed to improve.
According to EEF, only around 5,000 GPs have been trained in health and work out of 40,584 (September 2014 census) while only a small sum has been spent on GP training compared to the £170m the government is investing in the new ‘Fit for Work’ service over five years.
In response, and among a number of recommendations, EEF is urging government to set a fixed date by which all GPs and medical professionals will be trained in the use of the ‘fit note’.
“We have supported the ‘fit note’ since day one and wanted it to succeed,” said Terry Woolmer, EEF’s head of health and safety, who presented the survey’s findings at this year’s Safety & Health Expo on Tuesday.
“However, the evidence is now clear five years on that it’s not delivering on helping people back to work earlier. In fact, the evidence suggests that the quality of advice being given by GPs to help people back to work is deteriorating.”
Mr Woolmer added that the ‘fit note’ could still be made to work but argued that the government needed to invest greater resources into making it a success.
“The first step must be to ensure that all GPs and hospital doctors are trained in health and work issues so they feel confident in giving proper advice. Without this as a basis there is little prospect of the ‘fit note’ ever delivering genuine improvement in return to work performance and absence reduction.”
As part of it response, EEF is also calling for a step up in efforts to create greater interaction between GPs, employers and employees.
To aid this process, EEF has developed a template for use by employers so that employees will be able to take this to consult with their GP on what the employer is able to do to aid return to work.
SHP’s July issue will feature an article on the latest survey and its findings and a longer version will appear on SHP Online later this month.
Readers that would like to view the survey and access EEF’s full story should visit: www.eef.org.uk
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