Following amendments to the Motor Accident Injuries Act 2017, physiotherapists and psychologists with a general registration under the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law (NSW) No 86a and who are providing medical or other related treatment for all of claimant’s injuries as a result of the motor accident, can now provide certification of an injured person’s fitness for work.
The changes are intended to relieve pressure on general practitioners and the overall health system during the COVID-19 pandemic and provide flexibility for treating psychologists and treating physiotherapist to give second or subsequent certificates.
The amendments do not change the requirement that the first certificate of fitness must be issued by a medical practitioner and still allow second and subsequent certificates to continue to be issued by a medical practitioner.
The certificate of fitness provides information to the insurer about the injured person’s fitness for work or other activities such as activities of daily living and assists them to make a decision about the person’s eligibility for weekly benefits.
The changes came into effect on 17 April 2020 and will be in place for 12 months, unless revoked or amended earlier.
Issuing second and subsequent certificates of fitness
A treating medical practitioner must continue to issue the initial certificate of fitness to an injured road user. This is important so that the person’s full health needs can be assessed. Thereafter, the treating physiotherapist or treating psychologist can issue second and subsequent certificates of fitness.
A physiotherapist or psychologist issuing a certificate of fitness must have general registration under the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law (NSW) No 86a.
A physiotherapist or psychologist cannot issue a certificate of fitness if an injured person is receiving treatment from different health practitioners. In these circumstances, a second or subsequent certificate of fitness for work must be issued by a medical practitioner.
If a subsequent certificate covers a period that overlaps with a period covered by an earlier certificate, then the later certificate prevails for the whole of the period covered by the later certificate.
With the person’s consent, an insurer will send a copy of the certificate to the person’s medical practitioner to facilitate communication.
Assessing a person’s ability to work
It is important to assess and certify the current fitness of the injured road user, irrespective of whether suitable employment is available.
In the current environment of COVID-19, it is imperative that a person who is fit to work is certified as such so that they remain work ready, connected and, where required, receive assistance in returning to work. For example, this may include ‘return to work’ assistance from a rehabilitation provider.
Completing the certificate of fitness
The treating physiotherapist or treating psychologist must complete the Certificate of capacity/certificate of fitness - treating physiotherapist or psychologist form, available from the SIRA website.
The treating physiotherapist or treating psychologist can provide information for further consideration by the injured person’s medical practitioner, for example the suggestion of a referral to a specialist or different treatment provider. You may also need to refer the individual back to the medical practitioner for a review of the overall management plan if they are not progressing as anticipated.
We have developed training videos to guide treating physiotherapists and treating psychologists on assessing a person’s capacity to work.
1. SIRA Certifying capacity/fitness for work: An introduction for treating physiotherapists and psychologists, amendment overview – part one
2. SIRA Certifying capacity/fitness for work: An introduction for treating physiotherapists and psychologists, populating the certificate – part two