Stakeholder perspectives on the new sickness certificate in Victoria: Results from a mixed-methods qualitative study
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Objective: The aim of this study was to present the views of four stakeholder groups, namely general practitioners (GP), employers (EMP), injured workers (IW) and compensation agents (CA), about the content and usability of the draft of the new Victorian sickness certificate. Methods: A cross-sectional mixed-methods qualitative study was conducted in GP clinics and community settings in Melbourne, Australia. Interviews were conducted with GPs, EMPs and IWs and one focus group discussion was completed with CAs (n=29). Data were collected between October and December 2013. Thematic analysis was performed. Results: All stakeholders viewed the new draft certificate as an improvement on the old one. GPs saw the certificate as a form of communication, whereas EMPs and CAs saw it as a therapeutic device. GPs continued to certify based on incapacity and provided little information about what IWs could do on return to work. All groups said that assessments for mental health needed more clarity and specificity. GPs, EMPs and CAs also said that the new certificates must be electronically available and integrated into existing medical software to streamline uptake.Conclusions: To ensure appropriate use of the new certificate, stakeholders must share a common understanding about its purpose and the certificate must be incorporated into existing medical software. Content on mental health assessment, an area of continued difficulty, needs additional refinement. The new certificate replaced the old certificate in March 2015; after it has been established in clinical practice, an impact evaluation should be completed to determine whether GPs are certifying capacity and earlier return to work. What is known about the topic? When it comes to sickness certification, GPs tend to focus on what injured patients cannot do, rather than what they can do. The new sickness certificate aims to change GP behaviour by focusing the certificate more on capacity (i.e. what the injured patient can do). What does this paper add? Four stakeholder groups agreed that the content and usability of the new certificate has improved. However, they agreed that the assessment of mental health capacity needs further specificity. Dissonances also remain between the stakeholders on the purpose of the certificate. What are the implications for practitioners? Appropriate use of the new certificate requires a common understanding about the purpose of the certificate, training on its appropriate use, incorporation into existing medical software and clarity on mental health assessment.
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