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Sick Certification Study

September 24 2007 - New research from the Division of Primary Care at the University of Liverpool based on a survey of 3906 patients from nine Merseyside general practices and published in Family Practice has found that more certified intermediate sick leave (6-28 weeks) is given by male GPs to male patients compared to that given by female GPs to female patients.

Dr Mark Gabbay said:

"The evident link between GP gender and consultation outcome could be down to differing assumptions about roles within work for male and female patients and hence capacity for work, between GPs of different gender.

"On the other hand, the key to gender interaction differences might be found with the patient. Male patients may be more demanding, or better negotiators, when facing a male GP. What is not clear is whether this group do indeed have relatively greater problems, poorer coping skills, or are more sympathetically dealt with by male than female GPs."

Researchers explain that under UK regulations, employees can self-certify their first week of sickness absence but then must be certified by their GP who is contractually obliged to assess whether the patient currently is capable of "conducting duties involved in their usual occupation".

Researchers found that women most frequently presented with mild mental disorders (MMDs) such as depression and anxiety followed by musculoskeletal problems. Male patients were more likely to seek help for musculoskeletal problems. Men presenting with MMDs were given longer periods of sick leave by both male and female GPs.

Mark Gabbay explained:

"Previous research suggests male patients do not often present clear psychological symptoms of MMDs thus complicating diagnosis of related diseases by the GP. The complexities involved with diagnosing MMDs in males could go some way to explaining the longer sick leave granted by the doctor."

Previous UK research found that of approximately 17 000 people starting their sixth week of sick leave each week 3000 would not return to work before the 28-week threshold for incapacity benefit eligibility.

Mark Gabbay added:

"Sickness certification is an important outcome of a GP consultation - it has wide social and economic impact in relation to the workforce in the UK, as well as implications for the individual. We will be further investigating links between gender interaction and sickness consultation to determine the reasons behind this bias."

See also: Musculoskeletal Disorders
September 25 2007 - Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), a group of over 200 conditions including arthritis, back pain and damage to joints, muscles and tendons are by far the most prevalent cause of work-related illness in the UK affecting twice as many people as stress.



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