Assessing fitness for work: GPs judgment making

Michelle Foley, Kevan Thorley, Marie Claire Van Hout

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Background: The complexity of a fitness for work consultation is well documented. General practitioners (GPs) find that such consultations often create conflict and they feel ill-prepared for the task. Objectives: We aimed to examine the consultation process in the fitness for work consultation and to report on the response of GPs to two hypothetical consultations of work related sickness absence, one of a psychological and one of a physical nature. Methods: Three areas of the consultation were examined; social/family circumstances, workplace history and information required assessing the severity of the condition. We used a randomized design using an online questionnaire completed by 62 GPs located in the Republic of Ireland. Analysis was conducted in NVivo 8 qualitative software using thematic and content analysis techniques. Results: GPs may be expected to collect and consider information relating to social, domestic, financial, lifestyle and workplace factors, including workload, job satisfaction, job strain, work ethic, inter staff relationships and employee support mechanisms. The mode of presentation may trigger specific information seeking in the consultation. Conclusion: GPs may evaluate fitness for work in a variety of ways depending on medical and non-medical factors. Further research should further examine the factors that may influence the GPs decision to prescribe sickness leave.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)230-236
Number of pages7
JournalEuropean Journal of General Practice
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2013


  • General practice/family medicine
  • Musculoskeletal disorders
  • Psychological problems
  • Qualitative designs and methods development of measurement instruments


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