Record number of sick notes handed out in Wigan

Sick notes are at an all-time high
Sick notes are at an all-time high

More fit notes have been handed out to patients in Wigan than in other parts of the country, new figures have revealed.

A total of 66,489 fit notes, previously known as sick notes, were issued by borough GPs between April 2018 and March this year.

According to data released by the NHS, this averages around 182 sick notes per day. This has increased from 65,458 the previous year, which is an average of 179 per day.

This year there have been 2,984 sick notes issued per 100,000 people, once again at a higher rate than England and the North West with 2,199 and 2,701 respectively.

Fit notes are issued to patients by doctors following an assessment of their fitness for work. They may be shown to an employer for sick pay purposes or to claim sickness related benefits from DWP.

A fit note is issued after the first seven days of sickness absence – during which time patients can self certify sickness – if the doctor assesses a health issue affects the patient’s fitness to work. A GP can decide if someone is “unfit for work” or “may be fit for work” subject to reccommendations.

Dr Tim Dalton, local GP and Chair of NHS Wigan Borough Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “Fit notes are a really important tool as they help ill people and their employers to understand when they will be fit to return to work and what extra support they may need.

“In Wigan Borough, we issue more fit notes to our patients than the national average, but this reflects the fact that we have more people with long term conditions and illnesses and we don’t always have the healthiest lifestyles.

“Locally, through the Healthier Wigan Partnership, all health and social care organisations are working to prevent illness and improve the general health and wellbeing of local residents.

Over time, this should meant that residents stay well and in work for longer and fewer fit notes need to be issued.”

The most common reason for doctors signing people off work was mental and behavioural disorders, such as stress.

Others included diseases of the musculoskeletal system and connective tissue, respiratory diseases, and injury, poisoning and other external causes.

The data shows that in the past 12 months, October 2018 was the worst month for sickness with an average of 3,313 sick notes issued per 100,000 people.

The highest number of fit notes episodes was in January 2019. An episode is the “same period of sickness covered by one or more fit notes”.