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Fit note to sick note

Paul_Treloar_AgeUK
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Information and advice resources - Age UK

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DWP blog about how they researched and discovered that most people don’t know what a “fit note” is and so have amended the UC instructions to tell people that they might know it as a “sick note” instead.

No really, this isn’t an April Fools joke sadly…

Why we speak our users’ language

Mr Finch
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‘People reject Orwellian nonsense’ shocker.

Elliot Kent
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Shelter

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Perhaps they will start adopting the term “bedroom tax”.

Keena
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Welfare rights - Renfrewshire CAB

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I wonder how much that eye opening discovery cost to research!?!

Mike Hughes
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I loved the phrase “Content design is evidence-based.” Clearly not else you wouldn’t have called it a fit note in the first place.

This is all a fascinating insight into the mindset at DWP and the influence of politicians. Both habitually reject any attempt to suggest that a policy change is wrong, foolish, dangerous, won’t achieve policy aims etc. when confronted with research which clearly suggests same and yet, when confronted with their own research they are still undone by political stupidity.

Here is an item that you get when you’re sick. It is thus “a sick note”. It has nothing to do with fitness and it never will. Politicians will it to have something to do with fitness. No doubt someone in the nudge unit (yes I know that’s not the name but a bit like this it will always be “the nudge unit” because it so obviously is) no doubt think it’s an excellent idea too. What a shame then that literally no-one else does. No medical professionals. No-one working with sick people and no-one working to get people into employment.

This research screams “Just give in and call it a sick note” and yet for political reasons that can simply never be the case.

This is what happens when you genuinely think you have “customers” not “claimants” and think that marketing can do anything.

I am totally onboard with any honest agenda with regard to people being able to do “some work” or having “some capabilities” but this was never really an honest agenda. There was no need to faff with sick notes at all. Changing a piece of paper and issuing guidance on how you should use it differently was never going to work and, unsurprisingly, hasn’t. Nothing will change now either.

Talking to medical professionals might have helped. Few of them were onboard with this. They saw it for what it was and that isn’t changing any time soon.

Ianb
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Macmillan benefits team, Citizens Advice Bristol

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Mike Hughes - 04 March 2022 03:34 PM

..There was no need to faff with sick notes at all. Changing a piece of paper and issuing guidance on how you should use it differently was never going to work and, unsurprisingly, hasn’t. ..

The guidance to GPs on how to complete a ‘Statement of Fitness for Work’ always seemed hopelessly ambitious both in respect of how much time GPs have to spend filling them out and how much detailed understanding they can be expected to have about how work could be modified to support their patients. The title sort of gives it away “Getting the most out of the fit note”.

Helen Rogers
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I was at an event with the DWP years ago where the speaker (DWP) and the audience (Welfare Rights Officers) went for about half an hour talking at crossed purposes.  What the speaker called signing on and signing off, we would call making a claim and ending a claim.  What we called signing on, he would call a fortnightly job review.

Mike Hughes
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The thing is that there are two issues:

1 - amendments to fit note whilst the person is off sick.
2 - amendments to fit note at the point the person returns to work.

A GP cannot possibly have the sort of discussion required to do 1 in a 10 minute appointment. Call it what you want. Ain’t happening. For OH teams that’s often a 30 to 60 minute appointment. 10 minutes at the GP? Nope. If you were a GP you would immediately have understood for many years that recommending limited activity etc. was a route likely to bring you into potential conflict with both your insurers and legal advisers and you would be ill-advised/stupid to get involved in recommending anything which could be actionable further down the line.

At the point of returning to work few people go back to the GP to be specifically signed off. Many simply don’t go back to renew. So, who would write anything? Where a person does go back to work and goes in to specifically see the GP either at the request of the latter or under their own volition a GP will invest more time in insisting that they give a claimant another fit note than they ever would in discussing phased returns, reasonable adjustments etc.

All made worse by the DWP and assessment providers actively encouraging the perspective that a GP letter or fit note is “just another opinion” and thus not binding when asking for things like reasonable adjustments. At what point do you, as the DWP, or indeed a politician, begin to realise you can’t have it both ways. If a fit note is binding in one situation but patently not in another then what credibility could it ever have with GPs and why on earth would you bother.

Mike Hughes
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Helen Rogers - 04 March 2022 05:00 PM

I was at an event with the DWP years ago where the speaker (DWP) and the audience (Welfare Rights Officers) went for about half an hour talking at crossed purposes.  What the speaker called signing on and signing off, we would call making a claim and ending a claim.  What we called signing on, he would call a fortnightly job review.

It’s a bit like “claimant journey”.

Is it a journey or have you been so overtaken by marketing that you have no idea what it’s like to be a claimant at all. Insensitive at best.

Ianb
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Mike Hughes - 04 March 2022 05:23 PM

It’s a bit like “claimant journey”.

Claiming benefits seems to be more aptly described by the word ‘descent’ rather than ‘journey’ (although I accept that a descent is a specific form journey).