While a medical practitioner’s role involves assessing, diagnosing, treating and certifying patients, the role of a medical practitioner in the workers' compensation system also involves the following two responsibilities:

  • to support the worker to return to, and where possible to recover at work, through appropriate clinical intervention and management
  • to contribute to return to work and recover at work planning, in collaboration with the worker and other members of the support team - the insurer, employer, approved vocational rehabilitation provider and other treatment practitioners.

In addition to a medical practitioner’s usual physical and / or psychological assessment, screening for psychosocial risk factors that may delay or present a barrier to recovery, forms an important part of the assessment of a worker presenting with a work related injury or disease. Using acceptable medical terminology assists an insurer to make better decisions about a workers' compensation claim.

For a worker to make a valid compensation claim involving time off work, the injured worker must supply a medical certificate issued by a medical practitioner to their employer. The certificate must follow the format of the 'statement of fitness forms'.

The statement of fitness for work certificate is the primary tool for medical professionals to communicate with all parties involved in the recovery at work process. The certificate places emphasis on what the worker can do rather than what they cannot do.

The certificate includes a clear diagnosis and treatment plan, as well as any factors that may have an impact on recovery. The 'statement of fitness for work - first certificate' should not cover a period of more than 14 days and the progress certificate should not cover a period of more than 28 days.

The insurer will use these certificates as one source of information when making decisions regarding the worker’s work capacity.

Workers in remote areas who may not have easy access to a medical practitioner can supply a certificate from a registered nurse, an enrolled nurse or a registered Aboriginal health worker. Regulation 12 of the Return to Work Act imposes time limits for the effect of these certificates. Other than these exceptions, the certificate must be from a medical practitioner.

The treating medical practitioner may refer the worker to other medical practitioners for the workers treatment and may be called upon to provide a medical opinion to the injured workers insurer or self-insurer.

Insurers and self-insurers who require information about an injury relating to a claim must seek the medical opinion of the treating medical practitioner before seeking a second opinion, however if seeking a second opinion the insurer must:

  • inform the treating medical practitioner of their intention, and
  • provide to the treating practitioner, copies of any reports obtained during the second opinion.

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