Role of the Nominated Treating Doctor in the Workers Compensation System

When you have sustained an injury at work usually one of the first persons you see for advice is your local doctor.   Your doctor then takes on a role as the “nominated treating doctor” for the purposes of the Workers Compensation Scheme.

Role of the nominated treating doctor

The role of the nominated treating doctor is to oversee your medical management as well as participate in the return to work process.  The nominated treating doctor’s primary concern is your welfare and to ensure appropriate medical treatment is provided to assist you in your recovery.

The nominated treating doctor also provides information to guide the worker’s return to work which includes communicating with the insurer, the employer, rehabilitation providers and other treating practitioners.

Medical certificates

One of the most significant roles of the nominated treating doctor is to complete a medical certificate that accurately reflects the workers level of fitness for work.  The certificate is to be based on the doctor’s clinical opinion.  This is most important as often rehabilitation providers and/or insurers place pressure on the nominated treating doctor to certify a worker is either fit to return to work or fit to return to certain types of work where this may not be in the worker’s best interest.  This conflict often occurs and is one where the nominated treating doctor needs to always keep in mind the best interests of his patient.  It is the doctor’s responsibility to determine your ability to work and it is then the employer’s responsibility to offer work that is suitable given the nature of your injury.

It is also important that the medical certificate is completed accurately and properly with as much detail as possible to ensure that the employer can provide the worker with appropriate duties.  This will also avoid disputes which often arise as to the nature of work which the worker is able to undertake.

The New South Wales Medical Board has a guide to assist doctors in completing these certificates (link removed).

Reasonably necessary treatment

The Workers Compensation Legislation requires insurers to approve reasonably necessary treatment.  The nominated treating doctor is required to provide expert advice to the insurer of the type and level of treatment necessary.  This advice must be provided with the worker’s best interest in mind.

Conclusion

For the Workers Compensation Scheme to operate properly it requires a proper understanding of the role of the nominated treating doctor and the goodwill of all parties to encourage and support you in your return to work.

It is important however for the nominated treating doctor to always keep in mind what is in your best interests.   In completing a medical certificate or approving a return to work program it is important that the nominated treating doctor’s opinion is not influenced by other interested parties in the Workers Compensation Scheme such as rehabilitation providers and insurers.

By Matthew Garling

Publish Date: February 26, 2008