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1979-1987 - Mr Major’s Written Question on Self-Certification

Below is the text of Mr Major’s Parliamentary written question on Self-Certification, published on 22nd December 1981.


Mr. Major Asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether it is his intention to make changes in the rules relating to the issue of medical certificates for short periods of illness.

Mr. Fowler For a number of years doctors have complained about the 3 million medical certificates which they issue each year for illnesses lasting a week or less. Many are given for ailments such as the common cold, flu, or backache for which both patient and doctor know nothing can be done except rest. Doctors' surgeries can thus be cluttered up with people for whom no medical treatment is necessary, thereby reducing the time given to patients really needing care.

Following discussions with the British Medical Association and both sides of industry, I have decided that from next June general practitioners will no longer be required to issue statements for social security purposes on a patient's incapacity for work where the illness lasts for a week or less. This will help to reduce the pressure on doctors' surgeries and enable them to provide a better service for people requiring medical advice or treatment.

My Department will make available special forms to enable people to claim benefit during short illnesses. There will also be alternative arrangements to check on people who make frequent claims for short spells.

It is my intention that self-certification for illnesses lasting seven days or less should continue after the introduction of statutory sick pay. but that is subject to the change operating satisfactorily in the national insurance scheme and to appropriate control procedures under the sick pay scheme being agreed.

The necessary amending regulations will be laid before the House as soon as possible and the social security advisory committee will be consulted.