Correspondence from occupational physicians to GPs is infrequent, despite evidence that good communication leads to earlier return to work of sick-listed patients and is cost effective.
To explore the circumstances, content, and preferred method of communication GPs would value from an occupational physician, following an occupational health consultation with one of their patients.
Design and setting
A cross-sectional survey in the UK.
A questionnaire was developed de novo, piloted, and sent to 600 GPs of consecutive employees undergoing occupational physician assessments. Descriptive data were generated using Excel®.
The response rate was 374/600 (62%). Demographic features of GP responders reflected national figures. A total of 372 (99.5%) GPs wanted information from occupational physicians. Most wanted information on diagnosis (303, 81%), clinical assessment (275, 74%), functional assessment (295, 79%), or advice on the timing (308, 82%) and adjustments 290 (78%) of any return-to-work plan. Over 80% wanted information following every occupational physician consultation, and over 90% wanted information on the timing of a return to work, adjustments suggested, or if different medical diagnosis or management was suggested. The preferred method of communication was letter by post 341/374 (92%). Brief, relevant information was valued and considered useful for completing ‘fit notes’.
Occupational physicians should send formal letters, by post, to the patient’s GP following occupational health assessments. This would assist the GP in completing the patient’s ‘fit note’ and ultimately increase the chances of their patient being rehabilitated back to work.