SNS 24 health helpline to start issuing 3-day sick notes

General Medical Council warns of “disastrous consequences”

PS lawmakers are expected to decide on changes in the labour law that will allow the SNS 24-hour health helpline to issue people with sick notes for up to three days.

The idea is to relieve the time/ stress and inconvenience of the current system, in which ill people are still meant to travel to a health centre in order to be issued with a sick note that will fully satisfy employers.

The General Medical Council (Ordem dos Médicos) is not impressed, warning that it will lead to “disastrous consequences in a short time.

“How can SNS 24 issue a sick note if the line does not have doctors working it?” Queries outgoing president Miguel Guimarães.

But as the equally outgoing director general of health Graça Freitas considers, “these are new mechanisms that can facilitate medical response (as doctors’ time does not have to be taken up with people with minor illnesses requiring a few days off work) as well as the life of citizens”.

Ms Freitas believes in the ‘suck it and see’ approach. “I believe citizens are responsible”, she told Antena 1 radio station.

Other countries already operate similar schemes, she added.

The idea for Portugal is that citizens will be able to have six days off per year if necessary, without having to physically see a doctor to be signed off work for illness.

The proposal is due to be approved in commitee tomorrow, and then voted on in parliament on Friday.

Says Correio da Manhã, if all goes according to plan, the law should come into effect by April 3.

“This proposal is designed to bring more efficiency through procedural simplification”, PS MP Fernando José told the paper.

Health minister Manuel Pizarro has already said that in his opinion the decision will free GPs “from a bureaucratic activity that takes up a lot of time and limits access to medical help for people who need it”.

As CM adds, this decision will simply put into law a practice adopted during the pandemic when all efforts were made to by authorities dissuade people from turning up at health centres for any reason.

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