Fit note reform must prioritise health of patient

The RCGP has responded to Government plans to consult on reforms to the Fit Note process, announced today. Professor Kamila Hawthorne, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said:

“We know that in the main working can be beneficial for patients’ health, and GPs and our teams will already encourage people to work, or to return to work if they have been off sick, where it is safe and appropriate for them to do so.

“When making a decision to issue a fit note, the health and wellbeing of an individual patient must always be a GP or other healthcare professional’s principal concern. The College is supportive of a consultation to understand who is best placed to issue fit notes, given the workforce and workload pressures already faced by GPs. It is vital that if others become involved in this process that the best interests of the patient remains the priority for anyone involved in assessing someone’s ability to work – and that they are trained accordingly, with safeguards in place to ensure appropriate decisions are being made. This extends to any algorithms being considered for more automated systems, as it’s important the process remains a holistic assessment of someone’s health and wellbeing and their ability to work or return to work.

“Any initiative should be piloted, and subject to rigorous evaluation in terms of its benefit for patients, especially the most vulnerable, and identifying unintended consequences, before any wider roll out is considered. The RCGP will be responding to the Call for Evidence, announced by the Government today.”

Further information

RCGP press office: 0203 188 7659

Notes to editors

The Royal College of General Practitioners is a network of more than 54,000 family doctors working to improve care for patients. We work to encourage and maintain the highest standards of general medical practice and act as the voice of GPs on education, training, research and clinical standards.