Medical certificates standards updated

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The Medical Council has released its updated standards for doctors writing medical certificates to help doctors provide better information and reduce the potential for conflict.

So what information can HR expect to see when an employee hands over a medical certificate that meets the new standard?

In a statement released by the Council the new standards state medical certificates should provide the necessary information required by the receiving agency and consented to by the patient. What is deemed to be ‘necessary information’ should be usually limited to information about the doctor’s clinical opinion on safe activities/restrictions and timeframes. Private or irrelevant information should not be included in the certificate.

Usually a doctor would not record a diagnosis in a medical certificate, unless it has direct implications for the receiving agency. Examples of this include diagnosis relates to a workplace injury/illness and where the employer may need to take action, or where the illness/injury may have an impact on colleagues and the public such as a chef diagnosed with a food-borne illness.

Comments on fitness for work should refer specifically to the doctor’s clinical opinion and outline if the patient is fit for some duties then it should be recorded likewise if there are any duties that should not be attempted, and other appropriate restrictions.

Employers seeking additional information from a doctor about their employee’s health status, and whether they can work, can ask for the clinical doctor’s judgement as to what work the patient is fit for together with the number of hours a patient may be able to work, Medical Council Chairperson Dr John Adams said.

“However, the doctor’s ability to provide this type of information will be limited if the patient has not consented to its release,” he said in a statement.

Adams added that employers concerned about the content of a medical certificate should seek the patient’s consent and approach the issuing doctor with their concerns. Those unhappy with the response can consider asking the patient to see another doctor to obtain a second opinion.

Employers concerned that a doctor has not complied with the requirements of the Council’s standards are able to lodge a complaint with the Medical Council or the Health and Disability Commissioner.

To view the updates standards click here.

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