People should be able to sign themselves off work for two weeks before asking a doctor for a sick note, doctors have said.
At present, workers must give their employer a note from their doctor if they are off sick for more than seven days in a row, including weekends.
Writing so-called “fit notes” for people who only need to be off work for a couple of weeks takes away appointments from patients who may actually need them.
Medics at the BMA annual meeting on Wednesday voted on a motion calling for the “self-certification” period to be extended to 14 days.
It was proposed by Cardiff-born GP Dr Krishan Aggarwal.
“It’s about managing GP time effectively”
The locum, who splits his time between working in Cardiff and London, said he was delighted at the support the motion received from his BMA colleagues.
“It’s not about discouraging patients from coming to see us or telling an individual who has an acute illness they can’t see us.
“It’s about managing GP time effectively. We are increasingly riddled with bureaucracy and this is a bid to decrease that increasing workload.”
He said that as GPs do not know why their patients are visiting them, the same length of appointment is given to someone who needs diagnosis as needing a “fit note”.
“We don’t know what a patient has booked an appointment for. When they arrive it may be that they have an acute illness or that they need a fit note. We feel that appointments would be better used for those with acute or chronic illnesses.”
“Trying to do something to reduce the unnecessary appointments that GPs have”
Speaking ahead of the motion, Richard Vautrey, deputy chairman of the British Medical Association’s General Practitioners Committee, said: “It’s about empowering patients and trusting patients and reducing unnecessary appointments with GPs.
“If you’ve got a patient who very clearly has an illness that is going to last 10 days to two weeks, why do they need to make an appointment with a GP just to get that note to tell their employer what their employer probably knows already and what the patient should be trusted to be able to pass on?
“This is just a motion that is trying to do something to reduce the unnecessary appointments that GPs have and thereby increase the number of appointments that are available for people who genuinely do need to see a GP.”
He said that if someone was to abuse the system it would be an issue between them and their employer, adding: “We just have to trust people to do the right thing.
“The vast majority of people want to work, they don’t want to be off work for significant amounts of time.
“If people are just needing those extra few days why waste a GP appointment when it’s not necessarily needed?”