General practitioners (GPs) report sickness absence certification as challenging. They express need for support with functional assessment beyond guidelines and reforms. Case-specific collegial one-to-one guidance for other clinical topics has proved popular with GPs and may be an acceptable and effective way to improve GPs skills and competence in sickness absence certification.
To present a new model of case-specific colleague guidance focusing on the management of long-term sickness absence and to describe its feasibility in terms of application and reception among GPs, and also GPs' self-reports of effects on their practice.
Randomly selected GPs received case-specific collegial guidance over a 12-month period, in two Norwegian trials, delivered by former GPs employed by the social security administration. We measured reception and perceived effects by GPs' self-report and registered participation and withdrawal rates.
The participation rate (n = 165) was 94%, and no GPs withdrew during training. Among the 116 GPs responding to the survey (70%), 112 (97%; 95% CI 92-99) stated they would recommend it to their colleagues. Considerable benefit from the guidance was reported by 68 (59%; 95% CI 50-68). The GPs self-reported other effects on their sickness absence certification, specifically an increased use of part-time sickness absence (Fit-Note equivalent).
This model of case-specific colleague guidance to aid GPs' management of long-term sickness absence is feasible and was popular. This type of guidance was perceived by GPs to be somewhat beneficial and to alter their sickness absence certification behaviour, though the true impact requires further testing in controlled trials.