Background: In 2010, the fit note replaced the sick note to help focus on what people are capable of doing, rather than signing patients 'off sick'.
Aims: To compare proportions of work-related ill-health issued with sickness certification pre- and post-fit note introduction and assess sickness absence trends.
Methods: General practitioners (GPs) report data on work-related ill-health and sickness absence via The Health and Occupation Research network in General Practice. The proportion of cases issued with sickness certification 4 years before and 3 years after the fit note introduction were compared. Changes in certification incidence rate ratios were measured over time.
Results: Participating GPs reported 5517 cases of work-related ill-health. Pre-fit note introduction 50% of cases were certified sick. There was no change in the proportion of cases certified sick in the first year post-fit note, despite 13% of cases classified as 'maybe fit'. However, in the second year, the proportion of cases certified sick had reduced significantly (41%) and a larger proportion (19%) was advised on workplace adjustments. In the third year post-introduction, there was a slight rise in the proportion of cases certified sick; therefore, although there was a fall of 2% per annum in certification rates, this was not significant.
Conclusions: In the first year post-fit note introduction, modifications to work were recommended for people who would previously have been declared fit. Trends analyses showed a slight decrease in the certification rate, possibly indicating GPs will become more practised in advising on workplace adjustments.
Keywords: Fit note; general practice; occupational health; rehabilitation; return to work; workplace adjustments..
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