Government urges doctors to get sick people back to work

The Government has asked doctors to help people stay or get back into work when they suffer sickness or injury to end the ‘sick note culture’ in the UK.

Work and pensions secretary Alan Johnson addressed the Royal Society of Medicine, and said that increasingly doctors agreed that signing some people off as long-term sick is not always the best way to deal with their health problems. He also urged the NHS to see returning to work ‘as the norm’.

Research by Personnel Today – which surveyed more than 300 doctors – revealed that more than 80 per cent of them do not want to be responsible for writing sick notes, while 77 per cent admit they issue sick-notes too easily.

Just under 1,000 HR professionals also took part in the sick note survey, and 80 per cent of them said they are now seeing more staff signed off sick – with 30 per cent saying the numbers have greatly increased in the past year.

“For people who are able to work again, a job can itself be an important step in the road to recovery and rehabilitation,” Johnson said. “Rather than rest being the best remedy for back pain, for example, research now shows it can actually delay recovery and make things worse. Advising patients to stay active can help them get back to work and get on with their life.”

He said the forthcoming White Paper on public health will recognise the beneficial role some work can have in helping people recover from illnesses or disease, and would emphasise the damaging effects of being out of work.

Nine in 10 people who go onto incapacity benefit (IB) want to get back into employment, but research shows that the longer they stay on the benefit, the more likely they are to remain on it, according to the Government.

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