Australian General Practitioners’ and Compensable Patients: Factors Affecting Claim Management and Return to Work


Purpose General Practitioners (GPs) play an important role in personal injury compensation systems yet system processes have been perceived as burdensome. Objectives were to (1) determine attitudes of Australian GPs on health benefits of return to work (RTW) after injury/illness and (2) identify associations between GP characteristics and agreement with issues surrounding treating compensable patients. Methods Cross-sectional postal survey of 423 Australian GPs to determine agreement with issues associated with compensable patients (including patient advocacy, conflicting opinions between GPs and compensation systems, fitness-for-work certification, and refusal to treat). Results The vast majority of GPs agreed there was a health benefit to early RTW. GPs with 16–20 years’ experience had significantly higher odds of agreeing that the certificate of work capacity is the primary method of communication between RTW stakeholders (OR 2.36 [1.13–4.92]) than those with greater experience. 49% of GPs agreed they should be able to refuse to treat compensable patients. Female GPs had significantly lower odds (OR 0.60 [0.40–0.90]) of agreeing with right to refuse than male GPs, as did those from remote or regional practices (OR 0.43 [0.20–0.94]; OR 0.60 [0.39–0.92]) than GPs from urban practices. Conclusions Reducing administrative barriers identified by Australian GPs and improving communication with compensation systems will likely have a positive impact on their refusal to treat compensable patients.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Fig. 1


  1. 1.

    Waddell G, Burton K. Is work good for your health and well-being? London: The Stationary Office; 2006.

    Google Scholar 

  2. 2.

    Johnson D, Fry T. Factors affecting return to work after injury: a study for the Victorian Work Cover Authority. Melbourne: Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research; 2002

    Google Scholar 

  3. 3.

    Bunzli S, Singh N, Mazza D, Collie A, Kosny A, Ruseckaite R, Brijnath B. Fear of (re)injury and return to work following compensable injury: qualitative insights from key stakeholders in Victoria, Australia. BMC Public Health. 2017;17(1):313.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  4. 4.

    The Royal Australasian College of Physicians. Australasian faculty of occupational and environmental medicine position statement on realising the health benefits of work. Sydney: The Royal Australasian College of Physicians; 2011

    Google Scholar 

  5. 5.

    Brijnath B, Mazza D, Kosny A, Bunzli S, Singh N, Ruseckaite R, Collie A. Is clinician refusal to treat an emerging problem in injury compensation systems? BMJ Open. 2016;6(1):e009423.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  6. 6.

    Collie A, Ruseckaite R, Brijnath B, Kosny A, Mazza D. Sickness certification of workers compensation claimants by general practitioners in Victoria, 2003–2010. Med J Aust. 2013;199(7):480–483.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. 7.

    Brijnath B, Mazza D, Singh N, Kosny A, Ruseckaite R, Collie A. Mental health claims management and return to work: qualitative insights from Melbourne, Australia. J Occup Rehabil. 2014;24(4):766–776.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. 8.

    Mazza D, Brijnath B, Singh N, Kosny A, Ruseckaite R, Collie A. General practitioners and sickness certification for injury in Australia. BMC Fam Pract. 2015;16(1):100.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  9. 9.

    Swartling MS, Alexanderson KAE, Wahlstrom RA. Barriers to good sickness certification—an interview study with Swedish general practitioners. Scand J Public Health. 2008;36(4):408–414.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. 10.

    Skaner Y, Nilsson GH, Arrelov B, Lindholm C, Hinas E, Wilteus AL, Alexanderson K. Use and usefulness of guidelines for sickness certification: results from a national survey of all general practitioners in Sweden. BMJ Open. 2011;1(2):e000303.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  11. 11.

    Brijnath B, Bunzli S, Xia T, Singh N, Schattner P, Collie A, Sterling M, Mazza D. General practitioners knowledge and management of whiplash associated disorders and post-traumatic stress disorder: implications for patient care. BMC Fam Pract. 2016;17(1):82.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  12. 12.

    Buchbinder R, Jolley D, Wyatt M. Population based intervention to change back pain beliefs and disability: three part evaluation. BMJ. 2001;322(7301):1516–1520.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  13. 13.

    Winde LD, Alexanderson K, Carlsen B, Kjeldgard L, Wilteus AL, Gjesdal S. General practitioners’ experiences with sickness certification: a comparison of survey data from Sweden and Norway. BMC Fam Pract. 2012;13(1):10.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  14. 14.

    Ruseckaite R, Collie A, Scheepers M, Brijnath B, Kosny A, Mazza D. Factors associated with sickness certification of injured workers by General Practitioners in Victoria, Australia. BMC Public Health. 2016;16(1):298.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  15. 15.

    Dahrouge S, Seale E, Hogg W, Russell G, Younger J, Muggah E, Ponka D, Mercer J. A Comprehensive assessment of family physician gender and quality of care: a cross-sectional analysis in Ontario, Canada. Med Care. 2016;54(3):277–286.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. 16.

    Kosny A, Brijnath B, Singh N, Allen A, Collie A, Ruseckaite R. Uncomfortable bed fellows: employer perspectives on general practitioners’ role in the return-to-work process. Policy Pract Health Saf. 2015;13(1):65–76.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. 17.

    Department of Health. General practice workforce statistics—2013–2014. (2018). Accessed 2 Nov 2018.

  18. 18.

    Parkinson A, Jorm L, Douglas K, Gee A, Sargent G, Lujic S. Recruiting general practitioners for surveys: reflections on the difficulties and some lessons learned. Aust J Prim Health. 2015;21(2):254–258.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references


This research did not receive any specific funding.

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Shannon E. Gray.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of interest

The authors declare they have no conflicts of interest.

Additional information

Publisher’s Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Gray, S.E., Brijnath, B., Mazza, D. et al. Australian General Practitioners’ and Compensable Patients: Factors Affecting Claim Management and Return to Work. J Occup Rehabil 29, 672–678 (2019).

Download citation


  • Injury
  • Return to work
  • Health services administration
  • Refusal to treat
  • Workers’ compensation
  • Traffic accidents