Letter of the week…

For the British Medical Association (BMA) to suggest that doctors should not be held accountable for the crisis in sickness levels is itself a cop-out (Personnel Today, 20 June).

Working in HR in the health sector, we can see the problem of work-related sickness from a number of angles. Employers need to meet the challenge with a balanced approach. We need to deal with genuinely ill employees sympathetically, providing support and a route back to work. At the same time, we need to work in partnership with trade unions to respond to absenteeism that can be anything from ‘duvet days’ to personal or family pressures.

In these instances, when ill health becomes the easy excuse, it results in piling more pressure on colleagues, and (in the case of the NHS) forcing the employer to increase spending on temporary staff.

While we are not asking GPs to take on the role of a ‘cheap’ occupational health (OH) service, GPs should get a better understanding of work-related ill health, and work more closely with employers.

I have always believed in the need to develop a national OH service that would be independent of employers and offer a quality service to all sizes of organisation. In the meantime, employers need to engage with local GPs and primary care services to geta better understanding of work-related illness, and the effect of ill-health absenceon employers.

Robert Quick (personal capacity)

Deputy director of HR, Barnsley Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

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