Usefulness of GP reports.  The verdict from a clinician.

How useful are GP reports during sickness absence?

We recently wrote a comparison of OH and GP reports here on our blog but, looking at this topic from another angle, how useful are GP reports? We often find that managers will request a GP report as well as an OH report and it is perhaps useful to understand what you can expect to benefit from a GP report. During the recent Wellbeing @work exhibition, we listened to a very interesting talk by Dr Lucy Wright who discussed this issue.

A GP can explain the full medical details of the situation

The reasons for requesting a GP report can be many, but in one case it’s always important, and that is when the employee does not understand their own condition. This can happen in varying degrees, but it is commonplace that an employee has not understood the full extent and details of their situation.

The pros of GP reports

  • The GP has detailed medical information on the employee’s condition

The cons of GP reports

  • The GP can decide to act as the patient’s advocate skewing their report.
  • They may send more information than you require which becomes a data protection issue.
  • The length of time it takes for a GP to get to the task of releasing a report can be anywhere from two weeks to 6 months (if not more).
  • Usually GP reports have to be pre-paid, which means that you are paying without knowing the quality of what you will get.
  • The cost is often high. There is not set price on GP reports, which means that it’s up to the individual GP to determine the price. There is no upper limit to what they can charge.
  • On top of the time it takes the GP to release their report, the employee has up to 21 days to amend and/ or challenge the data, which potentially means an even longer wait for the manager who requested the report.

From our experience, GP reports can be relevant, but managers should be made aware of the issues mentioned above, before putting in a request. In our experience managers often have other expectations of what they will receive and when, than what they actually get in the end.

Only 25% of requests for GP reports result in useful information

Another issue that should be addressed is the quality of what you get out of the GP report. GP reports are usually clinically accurate, but they may not answer the question you originally asked. They will give an opinion on work fitness, but managers should be aware that about 50% of GP’s do not reply to a request for a report, and of those that do reply, only about 50% are useful.

Before requesting a GP report

Before you request a GP report, first of all determine whether or not you need a report. Then make clear what information you are asking for specifically, consider the timeframe and communicate that to the GP. And finally, consider how much you are prepared to pay.