In today’s climate it could be argued that it’s not a good time to be a doctor. From Juniors to GPs, the entire profession is feeling the strain from budget cuts, staff shortages and a greater demand than ever from an expanding population. Here in the UK, for many the NHS is an essential, life-saving mainstay, but it’s becoming clearer that something potentially extreme must be done to cope with the current demands.
The British Medical Association (BMA) last month came up with a suggestion for decreasing the workload for general practitioners. However, if adopted it would potentially cause a seismic shift in HR processes for many companies across the UK.
Dr Richard Vautrey, deputy chairman of the BMA’s GP committee, has suggested that workers should be able to sign themselves off work for up to two weeks without the need for a sick note from a GP. Currently, workers are allowed to sign themselves off sick for up to 7 days without seeing a GP. In addition, Dr Vautrey suggested that nurses and physiotherapists should be allowed to sign off the longer sick notes in the absence of a doctor.
The statement has been met with criticism from both the medical world and the business community. Joyce Robins, from Patient Concern, expressed that “two weeks off work without a sick note… sounds like a skiver's charter”, but Dr Vautrey insists that “most people are absolutely trustworthy” and that issues of system abuse should be dealt with at each employer’s discretion.
The move has been discussed as GPs currently spend a lot of their time repeatedly completing unnecessary tasks and bureaucracy. This, they argue, increases waiting times for a GP appointment and cuts down the amount of time they spend on each patient, which in turn can lead to prolonged illness and absence from work. In some ways therefore, they argue the move could be seen to benefit companies, as better quality treatment could become more readily available, thus reducing the 9.1 days which Britons take off sick a year, at a cost of £29bn annually.
A Department of Work and Pensions spokesperson said they have no current plans to change the existing policy, but in today’s climate HR teams need to be prepared should a policy change of this type come into force. As a well-defined procedure is the key to minimising sickness absence, it’s becoming increasing important that organisations have robust HR processes to ensure they are future-proof.