Sickness certification for patients with acute cough/LRTI in primary care in Poland and Norway
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OBJECTIVE: To compare the frequency and duration of sickness certificates issued by GPs to Polish and Norwegian working adults with acute cough/lower respiratory tract infection (LRTI). DESIGN: Cross-sectional observational study with clinicians from nine primary care centres in Poland and 11 primary care centres in Norway. GPs filled out a case report form for all patients, including information on antibiotic prescribing, sickness certification, and advice to stay off work. SETTING: Primary care research networks in Poland and Norway. SUBJECTS: Working adults with a new or worsening cough or clinical presentation suggestive of LRTI. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Issuing sickness certificates and advising patients to stay off work. RESULTS: GPs recorded similar symptoms and signs in patients in the two countries. Antibiotics were prescribed more often in Polish than in Norwegian patients (70.4% vs. 27.1%, p < 0.0001). About half of the patients received a formal sickness certificate (50.5% in Norway and 52.0% in Poland). The proportion of patients advised to stay off work was significantly higher in the Polish sample compared with the Norwegian sample (75.2% vs. 56.1%, p = 0.002). Norwegian GPs less often issued sick certificates for more than seven days (5.6% vs. 36.9%, p < 0.0001). CONCLUSION: The overall proportion of sickness certification for acute cough/LRTI was similar in Norwegian and Polish patients. However, in the Polish sample, GPs more often advised patients to take time off work without issuing a sick note. When sickness certificates were issued, duration of longer than seven days was more common in Polish than in Norwegian patients.
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