New regulations replacing medical sick notes with new ‘fit notes’ are due to be implemented from 6 April.
The Government has now published its response to a consultation on the Social Security (Medical Evidence) and the Statutory Sick Pay (Medical Evidence) (Amendment) Regulations 2010 and it is intended that these will come into force on 6 April 2010.
A new electronic form will replace the existing Med 3 and Med 5 forms and will include a third option to ‘fit’ or ‘not fit’ for work. Doctors can tick 'may be fit for work now' and suggest conditions in which a patient might return to work including altered hours, amended duties or workplace adaptations.
RCGP chairman Professor Steve Field supported the move in a Healthcare Republic podcast saying that it allowed GPs to make a positive intervention and help patients avoid long-term sick leave and developing further health problems.
Professor Field said: "The changes will be good for patients and will be very good for GPs as well. But this is not a change in isolation; it's an important shift for society as a whole.
"We will move from the very black and white system of being sick or not sick and instead see what we can do to help them get back to work."
But there are concerns that the quick implementation will not allow time for stakeholders to familiarise themselves with the new 'fit notes'.
The consultation and the regulations apply to England, Scotland and Wales.