Background: Work is healthy for our patients and there is often a perception that patients need to be 100% fit before they are able to return to work after an injury. Significant time away from work can lead to unwanted outcomes such as financial strain, difficulty returning to full time work and loss of employment. We see and treat many patients with hand trauma and issue a large number of ACC certificates.
Methods: 40 consecutive patients in June 2022 were treated through the Middlemore Hospital Plastic and Hand Surgery Unit. We compared their ACC medical certificates to a gold-standard ACC medical certificate. A gold-standard certificate allows the patient time off work to recover from their injury with a graduated return to work programme following this.
Results:This audit identified that only 12% of our medical certificates meet this standard. 48% of patients were not issued a medical certificate.
Discussion: Barriers to good medical certificate practice include time pressures and uncertainty around issuing practice.
Conclusions: To improve medical certificate practice, we need to raise awareness of the impact returning to work has on a patient's health and develop strategies to make completing medical certificates as simple and efficient as possible.