eMED (Fit Notes) Data Collection
The Health and Social Care Act 2012 (the Act) gives the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) statutory powers, under section 259(1), to require data from health or social care bodies or organisations who provide health or adult social care in England, where it has been Directed to establish an information system by the Department of Health (DH) (on behalf of the Secretary of State) or NHS England. When a direction is received, the HSCIC can issue a Data Provision Notice to the appropriate providers of the required data who are then legally required, under section 259(5) of the Act, to provide the data in the form and manner specified below.
Purpose of the Collection
The purpose of the anonymised data collection is to provide the Department for Work and Pensions with information derived from computer generated ‘Med3’ forms, known as fit notes, to:
- Undertake research analysis to inform policy relating to employment and sickness absence, including evaluation of the new fit for work service, which provides an occupational health assessment, and employment support allowance and universal credit.
- Identify geographic, Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and GP practice level differences in sickness absence management to inform policy development and continuous improvement, resulting people returning to work sooner.
- Enable baseline comparisons for the fit for work service.
- Use fit note data to build an understanding of the drivers for benefit claiming.
- Enable CCGs to self-audit their fit note to inform their own policy and commissioning decisions.
Benefits of the collection
The Department of Health believes that it is in the public interest for aggregated data to be made available to the Department for Work and Pensions as this permits effective evaluation of a major new programme, the fit for work service, which contributes directly to the health management of the individuals referred to it. An early return to work helps to prevent short-term sickness absence from progressing to long-term absence and ultimately worklessness.
This is a benefit for the patient, as well as a benefit to the economy. It is also important to understand geographical differences in fit note prescribing as this contributes to the wider debate on the efficient use of health service resources, and to the broader identification of public health geographical differences.
The health service and public health have an interest because evidence shows that being able to work is an important part of health and wellbeing, and supporting people to return to work can form part of their recovery from ill health.
The published CCG level statistics will be of use to health agencies, including Public Health England, to supplement public health datasets. CCGs will be able to self-audit their fit note data against comparable data to help inform their own policy development and commissioning decisions.