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Occup Med (Lond). 2009 Dec;59(8):580-5. doi: 10.1093/occmed/kqp147. Epub 2009 Oct 11.

General practitioners' use of sickness certificates.

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The Whiteley Surgery, Fareham, UK.



At present, sickness certification is largely undertaken by general practitioners (GPs). Guidance from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) is available to help with this task; however, there has been little formal evaluation of the DWP's guidance in relation to day-to-day general practice.


To assess GPs' training, knowledge and application of the DWP's sickness certification guidelines.


A structured questionnaire was sent to GPs within a (former) primary care trust (PCT). It probed demographics, training and knowledge of sickness certification guidelines. Case histories and structured questions were used to assess current practice.


In this group of 113 GPs, there was a low awareness and use of the DWP's guidelines and Website relating to sickness certification. The majority of the GPs (63%) had received no training in sickness certification, and the mean length of time for those who had received training was 4.1 h. Most GPs also felt that patients and GPs have equal influence on the duration of sickness certification.


This evidence of variable practice indicates that GPs should have more guidance and education in sickness certification. Closer sickness certification monitoring through existing GP computer systems may facilitate an improvement in practice that benefits patients and employers. The DWP, medical educators and PCTs may all have an additional role in further improving sickness certification practice.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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