BUSINESSES in Bury hit by short-term sickness among staff could help reduce the burden imposed on hard-working GPs.

Bolton and Bury Chamber is backing a new Managing Absence initiative co-ordinated by the Doctor Patient Partnership and involving a host of business and professional organisations.

This will allow employers to review their short-term sickness absence policies to reduce the pressure on GP services.

Figures show that 80 per cent of the £10.2 billion UK business cost of sickness absence is a result of short-term minor illness such as headaches and colds which can be self managed with advice from a pharmacist.

Yet, according to the research, more than a third of people questioned said that their employers expect them to get a doctor's certificate when off work for seven days or less with minor illness.

Central to the Managing Absence package of help is its website which people can long on to on

The site provides a comprehensive listings of sources of sickness management advice for employers.

And a new leaflet "Managing Short Term Sickness" is also in circulation and can be downloaded from the website.

Mr Andrew Ratcliff, chief executive of Bolton and Bury Chamber, said: "This new resource will help local companies tackle absenteeism efficiently and effectively while lifting the burden off our GPs.

"We urge companies to view the website and rethink their policies on sick notes."