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This publication is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/fit-notes-the-collection-of-anonymous-data-in-england/patient-information-how-anonymous-fit-note-data-is-collected-and-published
1. What fit notes are
A doctor will issue you with a fit note after they assess your fitness for work. This is also known as a ‘statement of fitness for work’ or a ‘Med3 form’.
You can use a fit note to:
- arrange sick pay from your employer, or
- claim sickness-related benefits from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP)
Your doctor will usually generate a fit note on a computer, but in certain circumstances they may write it by hand.
2. Why we collect fit note data
DWP uses fit note data to inform policy development. We know that work is good for health. We want to ensure the government can provide the right support when someone is unable to work because of sickness
3. Who collects the data
NHS Digital collects the data from GP practices in England on behalf of DWP.
4. How the anonymous statistics are produced
NHS Digital receives anonymous data using software within GPs’ computers. The software uses the information that GPs enter when giving fit notes to patients.
5. How the anonymous statistics are used
We use the statistics derived from fit notes to gain a better understanding of sickness absence across England.
We do this so we can:
- develop policy that provides support where it’s needed most
- help people with health conditions to return to work earlier
6. What data we collect and publish
The data that’s shared with DWP and published is completely anonymous to protect patient privacy.
The information includes:
- how many computer-generated fit notes are given out
- how many patients are recorded as ‘unfit’ or ‘maybe fit’ for work
- the time span (duration) of fit notes
- health condition (less common health conditions are not published so patients cannot be identified)
- location, including Clinical Commissioning Group areas
- whether workplace adaptations are recommended
We cannot identify individual patients at any stage.
7. Extra safeguards to protect patient confidentiality
DWP analysts only have access to anonymous statistics – not to any information that could identify a patient.
As an extra security measure, diagnosed conditions recorded in fit notes are grouped into more general condition descriptions. This ensures that any rare conditions become part of an aggregate higher level diagnostic grouping.
8. Where we publish the data
Fit note data is published on the NHS Digital website.
The data is anonymous and no individual patients are identifiable.
9. When data collection started
We started to collect fit note data from GP systems across England in April 2017 and started to publish the data in August 2017.
10. What data is included
The first data collection included fit notes issued from December 2014. It did not include data about patients who objected to their data leaving the GP practice for purposes beyond their direct care before the time of the first collection.
Since then, the data of any patient with an objection has been excluded from the point their objection is registered.
11. More information about the use of your personal information
NHS Digital publishes information about:
Find out more about your information rights on the Information Commissioner’s Office website.