The new Statement of Fitness for Work

On 6 April 2010 the current sick note forms were replaced with the new Statement of Fitness for Work.

Individuals requiring more than 7 days off work currently require their GP to provide a sick note, indicating how long that individual should refrain from work.

Recent investigation into the impact of work on health has shown (return to) work:

  • Promotes recovery and aids rehabilitation
  • Improves physical and mental health and well-being
  • Reduces social exclusion and poverty.

In order to focus healthcare professionals, employers and individuals on what patients are capable of (instead of incapable of), the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), in consultation with practising doctors and members of professional bodies including the Royal College of General Practitioners and the British Medical Association, has developed a “Statement of Fitness to Work”. Its purpose is to help patients and their employers explore ways of facilitating a return to work.

The current policy stipulates only GPs and other doctors are able to complete the new form. Employers are not bound to the contents of the form; however they are advised to use it in conjunction with the patient to inform the development of a return to work strategy. Physiotherapists are not eligible to fill in this form.

The key changes are:

  • The introduction of a new option – “May be fit for work taking account of the following advice”.
  • You will no longer be asked to issue statements stating someone is fit for work.
  • Increased space for comments on the functional effects of your patient’s condition with tick boxes to indicate simple adjustments or adaptations that could aide their return to work.
  • Inclusion of telephone consultations as an acceptable form of assessment.
  • A reduction in the maximum duration of statement during the first 6 months of illness to 3 months.
  • Simplifying the current system by combining the Med 3 and Med 5 into one form.

Although we are making changes, many elements of the current system remain the same, including:

  • You can still advise your patient that they are not fit for work.
  • The statement can only be completed by a doctor.
  • The statement is advice from you to your patient that your patient can use as evidence of their fitness for work for sick pay and benefit purposes. The advice on the statement is not binding on employers.

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