How do GPs complete fit note comments?

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BackgroundThe ‘fit note’ was introduced in the UK in April 2010, to facilitate return to work (RTW). However, no research to date has reported on how general practitioners (GPs) complete the comments section of the fit note.AimsTo investigate the content of GPs’ comments in a sample of actual fit notes.MethodsData were collected in a service evaluation of fit notes issued by a regular general practice and those issued by a fit for work service (FFWS), where the fit notes for patients using the service are signed by GPs who have completed or are studying for a Diploma in Occupational Medicine. Content analysis was conducted on the fit note comments.ResultsThere were 1212 fit notes available for analysis. Seven hundred and twelve were issued by the general practice and 500 by the FFWS. The FFWS made comments in 98% of those who may be fit and 90% of those not fit against 72% and 12%, respectively, for comments by the general practice. Fourteen different categories were identified in the comments. Most comments made some reference to RTW but few described the functional effects of the patient’s condition. Comments frequently covered more than one category and appeared to be serving a number of different purposes.ConclusionsThere was a wide variety in how the comments section was completed, and GPs were not completing the fit note as intended. The information provided may require improvement if it is to be useful to employers.

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