June 22, 2016

Doctors want to increase self-certification period

Doctors at the British Medical Association’s (BMA) annual conference have said they they feel employees should be able to self-certify sickness for up to 2 weeks, extending the existing legislation that states that employees can only self-certify for one week.

Doctors feel that by extending the period in which an employee can self-certify will help reduce the growing strain on GP appointments.


Doctors have said that employees need to be trusted more and that by increasing the self-certification period will enable doctors to provide a better standard of service to their patients.

Another area that was discussed at the BMA conference was the increasing volume of health checks that they are required to carry out before firearms applicants can be given a license. Doctors are required to complete a range of checks including both mental and physical checks, to evaluate whether or not the patient presents any risks. These checks for usually carried out for public organisations that require the use of firearms such as local police firearms units.


According to the Chairman’s of the BMA’s professional fee’s committe, John Canning, “That’s half a dozen appointments that it will take up. That’s six people who don’t get seen.

“We’re busy enough doing the day job, curing the sick.”

The general feeling as that these firearms checks are taking up an increasing amount of GP’s time and hence using too much of the NHS resources.


Would this move help the GP’s to provide a better service?

A recent report suggested that GP’s in England have seen an increase in GP appointments from 300 million to over 370 million over a 7 year period, an increase of 70 million.

Doctors feel that the increase is unsustainable, and feel that by doubling the length a worker can self-certify would free up resources to be used on the most high priority patients.


Once doctor said, “If you’ve got a patient who very clearly has an illness that is going to last 10 days to two weeks, why do they need to make an appointment with a GP, just to get that note to tell their employer what their employer probably knows already, and what the patient should be trusted to be able to pass on?”


How would this work for employers?

Whilst I’m sure this will be seen as a positive move for the NHS, I’m not sure it will be quite so warmly received by employers.

Sicknesss absence is already one of the largest problems businesses face and doubling the period an employee can self-certify may just increase the problem earlier.


I know a number of small businesses who have increase their own period and detailed this in the employee handbook. The jury is out however as to whether this will be effective.


Interestingly the government has said it has no plans to change its existing policy.

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