New guidelines will produce shorter sickness times

In the spring the National Insurance Office will apply new recommendations for the length of time off for sickness. This will lead to a decrease in absence due to sickness and other similar assessments.
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In the spring the National Insurance Office will apply new recommendations for the length of time off for sickness. This will lead to a decrease in absence due to sickness and other similar assessments.

As part of the government’s efforts to reduce absence due to sickness, the National Board of Health and Welfare has produced a ”decision supporting document” to be consulted when the length of sickness time is determined. The list has almost 90 different complaints, including symptoms, diagnoses and recommend time off sick.
– Investigations indicate that the process for giving time off due to sickness does not operate optimally at present. There are too large variations in how long people are registered as sick in different parts of the country and between different doctors. We hope that the guidelines will lead to more uniformity in assessments and shorter sickness times, says Anna Ericsson at the National Board of Health and Welfare.
The list includes the most common ailments in the register of the National Insurance Office. Lumbago, influenza and colds are some of them.
The guidelines will provide pointers
– Doctors will continue to make individual assessments on the basis of each patient. But the new guidelines will give an indication of approximately how long the time off should be, says Anna Ericsson.
As well as the recommendations, overall principles for time off for sickness have been formulated. Illness reports must be active, with the clear goal of helping the person affected back to work as soon as possible. Right from the start of the report, the return to work should be planned. Further visits to doctors should not be seen primarily as an opportunity to extend the time off work, and a period of absence due to sickness may well take place in the middle of a working week.
Encourage follow-up
– We want to counteract passive registration of time off sick without any follow-up of how rehabilitation measures are being complied with, says Anna Ericsson.

Recommended time off sick
Guidelines provide recommendations for just over 90 complaints. Here is a short selection of them:
Influenza: one week
Lumbago: one week for light work, two weeks for heavy work.
Gout: one week
Breast cancer, no metastases: three weeks after a normal operation
Prostate cancer, no metastases: six weeks after operation

Doctors and the National Insurance Office will use the guidelines. Doctors who judge a patient requires longer time off sick than that recommended by the National Board of Health and Welfare must give detailed motivation for their reasons. The risk is otherwise great that the National Insurance Office makes a different assessment from that of the doctor.
– Many doctors think that it is good to have these guidelines as an aid, Anna Ericsson points out.
Criticism from the medical profession
But there has been criticism of the guidelines, in particular from the medical profession. There is concern that the National Insurance Office will refuse medical assessments through reference to the recommendations. Some doctors feel that the recommended times off for sickness are too short in a number of cases.
– I can understand that there are some concerns, but we will follow developments closely in 2008 and 2009 and carry out follow-up work and evaluations. If it turns out that the recommended times do not correspond to normal practice we may need to correct them to gain better accuracy, explains Anna Ericsson.
Linda Sundgren

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