A new report collating evidence from hundreds of GP practices has found that nearly a third of fit notes that included a diagnosis were issued for a mental health condition. The research, by NHS Digital, covered GP practices in England between December 2014 and March 2017, drawing on data from practices that collectively represented two thirds of the working age population registered with a GP.
Twelve million fit notes were issued in that period, but only 5.8 million had a code indicating the diagnosis. Of those, the diagnosis of almost 1.8 million fit notes, or 31.3%, was mental health or behavioural conditions, making these the most common reason for issuing a fit note.
The research, Fit notes issued by GP practices, also reveals that one in five (21.5%) of the fit notes for mental health and behavioural conditions were for a period of more than 12 weeks. For fit notes as a whole, the proportion for a prolonged absence was 14.7%; while for respiratory diseases, the proportion was 2.8%. The number of fit notes written for anxiety and stress-related conditions increased by around 14% during the research period, from 503,000 in 2015-16 to 573,000 in 2016-17.
The NHS Digital findings followed publication of a study by researchers at the University of Manchester, which found that people in high stress, low security jobs may not have better health than those who do not work. The study challenges the popular belief, underpinning government policy around work and absence, that work is always better for wellbeing than unemployment.
Researchers monitored 1,116 participants aged 35 to 75 who were unemployed in 2009-10 looking at self-reported health issues, and hormones and stress-related “biomarkers” over the following two years. Comparing the results of those who remained unemployed and the group that moved into poor quality jobs – with low levels of pay, little security and poor quality working environment – the employed group had the highest levels of ill health.
However, the group that had moved into good quality work had the lowest levels of stress biomarkers.
Source: Health & Safety At Work Magazine – October 2017
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