GPs fail to exploit health benefits of work due to lack of knowledge

Two-thirds of GPs are unaware that work is beneficial for physical and mental health, it emerged today.

A survey of 1,500 GPs carried out by on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), found they were unaware of evidence that work could help people with a health problem to get better, and that returning to work after a period of unemployment improves health.

Nearly 90% said that if they had known of this evidence it would have affected the advice they gave to patients.

About 100 leading doctors gathered today to discuss the findings of the survey, at the British Medical Association Conference.

Lord McKenzie, parliamentary under-secretary at DWP, said: “The recognition that there is evidence that work is good for people’s health means staying in work or returning to work could actually be part of the solution to ill-health – no longer just part of the problem.

“Obstacles often arise from myths and misunderstandings. A doctor’s advice can have a powerful impact – for good or harm. Wrong words can reinforce or even create myths. Challenging patient misconceptions and providing evidence-based advice is an effective way of overcoming these barriers.”

McKenzie said the government, employers, the medical profession and individuals must consider how to go further to respond to the challenges of tackling ill-health in the working population.

Work and pensions secretary Peter Hain and health secretary Alan Johnson have asked Dame Carol Black, the government’s first national director for health and work, to carry out an extensive review of the health of the working age population.

Black is launching a call for evidence later this month and is due to report in early 2008.

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