There’s some signs the UK ‘fit note,’ which replaced the ‘sick note’ in 2010, is linked to fewer individuals taking long term UK sick leave of more or 12 weeks, shows research released online in Environmental & Occupational Medicine.
However, the percentage of men and women off sick with tension, anxiety, and depression is increasing, the evaluation suggests.
The ‘fit note’ differs from its predecessor because it challenges the notion that the patient/worker must be completely fit before s/he can restart work, by empowering family doctors (GPs) to provide guidance to both worker and company on how an individual might have the ability to return to work if given support.
This may incorporate a phased return, making workplace revisions, changing working hours, or amending responsibilities.
The data collected included date of problem, identification, duration of time when the patient would be able to do some work, and whether a follow up evaluation was needed. It also includes a postal code to be able to identify practices found in regions of deprivation, a known risk factor for long term sick leave, as well as gender and birth date.
Chosen intervals of nearly 14,000 sick leave periods in 68 practices were between 2011 and 2013. Over half (53%) of all certified spans of sickness absence did not continue beyond 3 weeks; around a third (35%) continued less than 12 weeks; and the rest (12%) exceeded 12 weeks.
Specific variables appeared to be linked to longer periods of sick leave. Residing in a disadvantaged region, being male, belonging to the older age bracket were significantly related to taking time off work for 3, 6, and 12 weeks.
GP partners were also more likely than locum or salaried GPs to sign sick leaves for intervals of more or 12 weeks.
Another noteworthy change was a decrease in the percentage of sick leave taken for respiratory health issues, which dropped from 10% to 6%.
Sick leave is expensive for the economy, the researchers said.
This thus make it to be hard to draw certain conclusions about whether ‘fit note’ has shifted the probability of patients becoming fir for work, they propose.
They however said that by the end of last year the authorities began piloting a Fit for Work Service, ahead of national rollout. The service empowers family doctors and perhaps companies to send people to get a work concentrated health assessment, together with the goal of identifying the variables that might be keeping someone from going back to work.
But given the study results that almost half of patients were off ill for over three weeks, significant resources will be needed to run the system efficiently, they warn.
“Also, a methodical assessment of the results of the Fit for Work Service is significantly needed, particularly considering its possible substantial economic consequences in addition to effects on wellbeing,” they conclude.