GP Admits to Signing Off 100 Sick Notes Per Month Without Seeing Patients

UK GPs issue 100 'fit notes' monthly without seeing patients, highlighting systemic issues in healthcare system. PM plans changes, but experts warn against over-medicalization of normal concerns.

Rizwan Shah
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GP Admits to Signing Off 100 Sick Notes Per Month Without Seeing Patients

GP Admits to Signing Off 100 Sick Notes Per Month Without Seeing Patients

Dr. Dean Eggitt, a general practitioner (GP) in Doncaster, has revealed that he routinely approves around 100 'fit notes' (sick notes) per month for patients without actually speaking to them. Eggitt cites the overwhelming demand for appointments and the fear of negative patient feedback as the main reasons behind this practice.

According to Eggitt, while ideally each patient should be assessed individually, the sheer volume of requests makes it physically impossible to do so. He explains that many of his colleagues are also burdened by the fit note process and would be relieved to no longer have this responsibility, as proposed by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's plan to strip GPs of the power to sign people off work.

Eggitt reveals that GPs often feel pressured to approve fit notes to avoid confrontations with patients. Denying a request could lead to negative feedback that impacts the practice's funding and patient registration. Additionally, some GPs fear for their safety if they refuse to sign off patients trying to avoid court-ordered community service.

The article highlights the immense workload and lack of resources faced by GPs, forcing them to prioritize approving fit notes over thoroughly assessing each patient's condition. This situation has led to a staggering 94% of the 11 million fit notes issued last year deeming people unfit for work.

Why this matters: The revelations by Dr. Eggitt shed light on the systemic issues within the UK's healthcare system, particularly the overwhelming pressure on GPs. The current fit note process not only strains medical professionals but also raises concerns about the accuracy of sick leave approvals and the potential impact on the workforce.

Prime Minister Sunak has labeled this issue as a 'sicknote culture' and plans to trial a new system where work and health professionals, rather than GPs, would issue fit notes. However, experts have cautioned against over-medicalizing normal worries as mental health conditions and urged the government to consider workplace diversity and inclusion instead.

The article also mentions the case of Dr. Sarah Benn, a former GP from Birmingham, who was suspended for five months by the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service for her involvement in climate protests. This has sparked a debate about the role of doctors in addressing the climate crisis, which many consider to be the greatest health threat.

As the UK grapples with a shortage of doctors and delays in NHS treatment, the fit note controversy adds to the challenges faced by the healthcare system. The government's proposed changes to the fit note process aim to alleviate the burden on GPs, but concerns remain about the potential impact on workers' rights and the recognition of mental health issues in the workplace. The medical community and policymakers must work together to find a balanced solution that supports both healthcare professionals and patients while ensuring the integrity of the sick leave system.

Key Takeaways

  • GP approves 100 'fit notes' monthly without patient contact due to high demand.
  • GPs feel pressured to approve fit notes to avoid negative patient feedback.
  • 94% of 11 million fit notes issued last year deemed people unfit for work.
  • PM Sunak plans to strip GPs of fit note power, shifting to work/health professionals.
  • Debate on doctors' role in addressing climate change, with a GP suspended for protests.