Limiting sick notes undermines GP expertise and puts patients at risk, says BMA

by BMA media team

Press release from the BMA

Location: England
Published: Wednesday 15 February 2023

Responding to reports that GPs will be told to limit sick notes to help boost the nation’s workforce and economy, Dr Kieran Sharrock, acting chair of GPC England at the BMA, said: “The BMA has been clear for many years that it may not always be necessary or appropriate for a GP to issue a sick note, but rather another member of the practice team, such as a nurse or physiotherapist - especially where a patient has already seen them for their condition.

“However, it is not the responsibility of anyone in general practice to implement Government economic policy; our responsibility is to look after our patients. GPs and their teams undertake a thorough assessment of a patient before deciding if a fit note is required, and if one is issued, will then arrange a follow-up appointment.  

“Any suggestion that GPs and their teams should limit fit notes undermines their expertise as doctors and puts patients and the wider community at risk. People will be left with no option but to go to work when they are unwell – potentially worsening their own health and putting those around them at risk of infection. It is ridiculous for ministers to believe that practice staff should instead recommend ways that sick patients can continue to work with support; this will merely increase the workload for already over-stretched teams as well as creating undue stress and possible longer periods of poor health for a patient.

“The Government should look closer to home for the root cause of the increase in long-term sickness and the need for more fit notes. The cost of living crisis is heaping mental and physical misery on millions as well as the ever growing waiting lists for treatment and surgery. Prevention is better than cure; so instead of masking the symptoms through writing fewer fit notes, the Government should seek to address why many of these notes are needed in the first place and how its own failings have contributed to this situation. It is only by addressing these systemic issues that the Government can hope to improve the health of the population, which is essential for a thriving economy.”


Notes to editors

The BMA is a professional association and trade union representing and negotiating on behalf of all doctors in the UK. A leading voice advocating for outstanding health care and a healthy population. An association providing members with excellent individual services and support throughout their lives.