Doctors in Morecambe Bay sign 171 sick notes every day on average, according to the latest NHS figures.
GPs working in the NHS Morecambe Bay Clinical Commissioning Group area – which includes Lancaster, Morecambe and Carnforth, issued a total of 62,281 notes between October 2017 and September 2018.
People in work need a sick note, now referred to as a fit note, if they are off work for more than seven days.
Up to that point they can self-certify they are unwell.
Mental health is the most significant single cause.
Of the notes signed in Morecambe Bay, 10,476 or 17 per cent were issued for mental health problems.
A further 4,856 were the result of musculoskeletal conditions such as back problems.
Research by mental health charity Mind found that nearly half of workers said they had suffered from mental health issues during their current employment. Emma Mamo, head of workplace wellbeing at the charity, said: “Mental health problems can be debilitating and should be seen as a valid reason for needing time off.
“However, if staff are well supported they can and do make a valuable contribution to the workplace, whether they have a mental health problem or not.
“Thankfully, many employers are making strides when it comes to prioritising workplace wellbeing, recognising well-supported workers are happier, more productive and loyal.”
Across England, 5.6 million sick notes were handed out over the 12 months to the end of September last year.
The number of sick notes signed in Morecambe Bay in that period is up on the previous 12 months despite under-reporting last February caused by data-gathering issues.
Doctors in the area issued 2,497 sick notes for every 100,000 people on their registers, on average, each month. The highest rate was 3,641 per 100,000 in Halton and lowest rate was 867 in Richmond.
Despite now being called fit notes, almost all of those issued classify people as unfit for work. This was the case for 94 per cent of the notes handed out across the country.
However, sick notes are also used to advise patients and their employers on getting back to work with reduced hours or limited duties.
Women were signed off sick a little more than men. They received 57 per cent of the sick notes across England over the 12 months.
If you need a sick (or fit) note, contact your GP surgery. Or if you are getting hospital treatment, ask for one from your hospital doctor. Your doctor will assess you and if they decide your health affects your fitness for work, they can issue a note and advise either that you are “not fit for work” or you “may be fit for work taking into account the following advice”. Discuss this advice with your employer to see if you can return to work.