A successful recovery and return to work involves a number of individuals, and the best outcomes are achieved when everyone works together. Here’s a quick rundown of the different parties who are likely to have an important role to play in your patient’s recovery journey.

GPs and other medical practitioners

As a GP, you obviously play a pivotal role in your patient’s treatment, and you will also need to approve injury management and return to work programs. What’s more, it’s a multifaceted role, in which you:

  • provide a diagnosis and deliver primary care
  • coordinate injury management by communicating with injury management parties (via telephone, written correspondence or case conferences)
  • talk to injured workers about the health benefits of returning to work
  • supply vital information about the work-related injury or disease
  • issue certificates of capacity outlining your patient’s progress, treatment, capacity for work and injury management needs
  • liaise with your patient’s employer to
    • enable the development of return to work programs
    • ensure your patient’s return-to-work duties are suitable for their capacity
    • explain the nature of any restrictions on your patient’s capacity to work
    • discuss the impact of medication your patient may require
  • review your patient’s recovery and injury management progress.
The injured worker (your patient)

Your patient has a critical role to play in their own recovery and return to work. Research shows that injured workers achieve better outcomes when they are supported to return to work and encouraged to take responsibility – or self-manage – their recovery.

Your patient is responsible for:

  • reporting their injury promptly
  • completing their Workers’ Compensation Claim Form
  • obtaining the First Certificate of Capacity from you, their GP
  • providing certificates of capacity (original copies) and other documentation to their employer or insurer as promptly as possible
  • informing their employer and insurer about changes to their own or treating health practitioners’ contact details
  • attending medical and other appointments arranged by you or their employer or their insurer
  • rescheduling appointments quickly if they are unable to attend
  • wherever possible scheduling appointments outside of their agreed working hours so that there is minimal disruption to their return to work program
  • communicating with parties involved in supporting their recovery and return to work – it’s important to keep the lines of communication open and regularly discuss progress (including any difficulties they may be having with their return to work program)
  • helping to identify suitable work duties so they can return to work
  • being actively involved in developing and implementing their return to work program
  • working collaboratively with workplace rehabilitation providers (WRPs) where WRPs have been engaged to support their recovery and return to work.

Read about injury management strategies you can use to engage and empower your patient, including making referrals to workplace rehabilitation providers. Also, refer your patient to the WorkCover WA website, which is full of useful information for injured workers.

The employer

Your patient’s employer has a central role to play in supporting your patient immediately after their injury and through their recovery and return to work.

By law, employers are required to have an injury management system in place, and to provide injured workers with a return to work program when a medical practitioner:

  • advises, in writing, that a return to work program should be established for the worker
  • signs a certificate of capacity indicating that the worker has some (or partial) capacity for work
  • signs a certificate of capacity indicating that the worker has total capacity to return to work, but for some reason is not able to return to the position held immediately prior to the injury.

Your patient’s employer is also responsible for:

  • ensuring your patient receives immediate first aid and appropriate medical attention following their injury
  • notifying their workers’ compensation insurer of the injury
  • making early contact with you (as the injured worker’s GP)
  • offering your patient support and information
  • helping your patient complete the Workers’ Compensation Claim Form
  • lodging the completed Workers’ Compensation Claim Form and First Certificate of Capacity with their workers’ compensation insurer
  • considering your patient’s certified capacity for work in return-to-work planning
  • identifying duties that suit your patient’s capacity, as outlined by you or other medical practitioners
  • developing a return to work program in collaboration with you and your patient.

Please refer employers to the WorkCover WA website for more information about their rights and responsibilities.

The insurer

Insurers play an important role in a worker’s compensation and injury management journey. Under workers’ compensation insurance policies, insurers are required to:

  • underwrite workers’ compensation liabilities (Western Australia is a privately underwritten scheme)
  • set, calculate and collect premiums
  • manage workers’ claims – this includes helping employers meet their injury management and return-to-work obligations process claim related payments.

Insurers also help by:

  • advising on correct claims procedures
  • estimating the cost of claims
  • participating in the injury management process at the employer’s request, including facilitating communication between the treating medical practitioner and employer
  • assisting with return to work programs and identifying claims that may require workplace rehabilitation
  • representing the employer through the conciliation and arbitration process when disputes occur.

You can find out more about the role of insurers and access a list of approved insurers on the WorkCover WA website.

Workplace rehabilitation providers

Workplace rehabilitation providers (WRPs) often play a key role in the recovery and return-to-work journey, and are particularly useful if your patient’s return to work program isn’t progressing as planned.

WRPs include a range of health professionals, such as occupational therapists, physiotherapists and psychologists, who will typically help you, your patient and your patient’s employer develop and implement a return to work program. WRP professionals can help you identify and address the physical, psychological and workplace barriers that may prevent your patient returning to work.

Find out more about WRPs and how to make referrals to workplace rehabilitation providers.