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30th October 2014

GPs claim new Fit for Work scheme “will help patients”

In a recently published study regarding the potential effectiveness of the soon to be introduced ‘Fit for Work’ scheme, GPs say they would refer eligible patients to the new service to support employers and staff overcome sickness absence with a view to getting people back to work.

‘Fit for Work’ will start later this year to provide an occupational health assessment and health and work advice to employees, employers and GPs to help people return to or stay in work after an illness.  People on sick leave will be helped to return to work by being provided with an occupational health assessment when they have been, or are expected to be, off work for 4 weeks. After the assessment they will receive a return-to-work plan with recommendations to help them get back to their job more quickly. General health and work advice will be available through a website and phone line.

Minister for Welfare Reform, Lord Freud said:

“Being in work is good for people’s wellbeing and can help them to recover. Fit for Work will help employers and their staff to manage sickness absence and aid the return-to-work process and GPs will play a vital role in referring patients they think will benefit from it. This research will build on the learning from the pilot to help us understand how GPs will use this service and how we can support them in the future.

“Fit for Work is a result of the independent review of sickness absence and the government response which accepted the recommendation to introduce an independent assessment service.”

The study, ‘Exploring future GP referral to Fit for Work’, looks at how GPs might signpost their patients to the assessment part of the support. Its publication coincides with the renaming of Health and Work Service to Fit for Work to more accurately reflect the nature and impact of the service. It is reported that most GPs contacted for the study had a positive approach to the relationship between health and work.

Other findings of the study included the following:-

  • Patients with longer fit notes and therefore off work for longer periods were deemed more suitable for referral to the service by their GPs.
  • GPs said they would be less likely to refer patients to Fit for Work with a clear recovery path who were likely to return to work under their own steam.
  • GPs said they would have referred 1 in 2 of their patients they considered suitable for the service (54% of deemed suitable patients).

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