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Mental health nurses should be able to sign fit notes, claims report

Thriving at Work report suggests GPs and hospital doctors are not always best equipped to provide employment advice to people with mental health conditions.

Thriving at Work report suggests GPs and hospital doctors are not always best equipped to provide employment advice to people with mental health conditions.

Sign-off-tile
Picture: Alamy

Employees are required to provide fit notes after four weeks’ absence from work, but currently they can only be issued by GPs and hospital doctors.

Fit notes outline what support the employee has been or will be receiving, and when they are expected to be able to return to work.

The Thriving At Work report, commissioned by prime minister Theresa May, looks at how employers can support staff with mental health problems.

It recommends that mental health nurses and other health professionals be allowed to sign the certificates.

Employment advice

The government is currently reviewing the fit note system.

‘There is limited evidence that the current fit note process is effectively encouraging GPs and patients to discuss work and health,’ the report states.

‘Currently, only GPs and hospital doctors can sign a fit note, and many think that they are often not best equipped to provide employment advice for people with a mental health condition.

‘[In addition] many are concerned about the implications of ticking “may be fit for work” when support might not be available to the individual.

‘We recommend that the responsibility for completing fit notes is extended to mental health professionals, and that the government considers how to further improve communication between health professionals, employees and employers where appropriate.’

Job loss

Co-authored by Mind chief executive Paul Farmer, the report includes research that estimates 300,000 people with a long-term mental health problem lose their jobs every year.

It estimates the annual cost of poor mental health to employers to £42 billion, including issues linked to poor productivity.

The cost to the government via the NHS of treating mental health problems is estimated at £27 billion a year.

Mr Farmer said: ‘We found that in many workplaces, mental health is still a taboo subject and that opportunities are missed to prevent poor mental health and ensure employees who may be struggling get the support they need.

‘The human cost of failing to address mental health in the workplace is clear.

‘Every employer in the UK has a responsibility to support employees with mental health problems and promote the mental wellbeing of their entire workforce.’


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