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UK fit note linked to fewer people taking long-term sick leave

23 February 2015

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There is some evidence that the UK ‘fit note,’ which replaced the ‘sick note’ in 2010 in the UK, is linked to fewer people taking long-term sick leave of 12 or more weeks, reveals research published online in Occupational & Environmental Medicine.

But the proportion of people off sick with depression, anxiety, and stress is on the rise, the analysis suggests.

The researchers base their findings on ‘fit note’ data collected from 68 general practices of varying list size in England, Scotland, and Wales between 2011 and 2013, and a comparison of sick note data collected in 2001-02 from seven of these practices.

Almost 14,000 periods of sick leave were taken between 2011 and 2013 at the 68 practices. More than half (53%) of all certified periods of sickness absence didn’t last beyond three weeks; around a third (35%) lasted less than 12 weeks; and the remainder (12%) exceeded 12 weeks.

Certain factors seemed to be more closely linked to longer periods of sick leave. Being male, older, and living in a deprived area were significantly associated with taking time off work lasting more than three, six and 12 weeks.

GP partners were also more likely than salaried or locum GP to sign patients off sick for periods of 12 or more weeks.