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GP contract 14/15 guidance

This information is available on our website here.

Newcriminal practice directions have just been laid before parliament. Inter alia they include some general guidance on how courts should handle the issue of medical certificates provided for defendants. Whilst none of this is actually new, nevertheless the guidance on this matter is extremely clear, and a useful reminder to GPs, and so I have copied it below for your information. I would particularly draw your attention to the “minimum standards” expected of a medical certificate and, importantly, the very last paragraph, SC6, which I have highlighted.

It goes without saying that the provision ofmedical certificates or reports in respect of court defendants is an extra- contractual, non- NHS service and practices may charge an appropriate private professional fee, taking into consideration the amount of work required.


SC.1 Doctors will be aware that medical notes are normally submitted by defendants in criminal proceedings as justification for not answering bail. Medical notes may also be submitted by witnesses who are due to give evidence and jurors.

SC.2 If a medical certificate is accepted by the court, this will result in cases (including contested hearings and trials) being adjourned rather than the court issuing a warrant for the defendant's arrest without bail. Medical certificates will also provide the defendant with sufficient evidence to defend a charge of failure to surrender to bail.

SC.3 However, a court is not absolutely bound by a medical certificate. The medical practitioner providing the certificate may be required by the court to give evidence. Alternatively the court may exercise its discretion to disregard a certificate which it finds unsatisfactory: R V Ealing Magistrates’ Court Ex P. Burgess [2001] 165 J.P. 82

SC.4 Circumstances where the court may find a medical certificate unsatisfactory include:
(a) Where the certificate indicates that the defendant is unfit to attend work (rather than to attend court);
(b) Where the nature of the defendant's ailment (e.g. a broken arm) does not appear to be capable of preventing his attendance at court;
(c) Where the defendant is certified as suffering from stress/anxiety/depression and there is no indication of the defendant recovering within a realistic timescale.

SC.5 It therefore follows that the minimum standards a medical certificate should set out are:
(a) The date on which the medical practitioner examined the defendant;
(b) The exact nature of the defendants ailments
© If it is not self-evident, why the ailment prevents the defendant attending court;
(d) An indication as to when the defendant is likely to be able to attend court, or a date when the current certificate expires.

SC.6 Medical practitioners should be aware that when issuing a certificate to a defendant in criminal proceedings they make themselves liable to being summonsed to court to give evidence about the content of the certificate, and they may be asked to justify their statements.

Dr. Robert Morley
Executive Secretary
Birmingham Local Medical Committee

36 Harborne Road, Edgbaston, Birmingham B15 3AF

Tel. 0121-454 5008, Fax. 0121-455 0758
Office email:
Birmingham Local Medical Committee
Supporting the Business of General Practice


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