GPs failing to lose ‘sign them off’ mentality

Two-thirds of GPs remain unaware of government-led research that work can be beneficial for physical and mental health, suggesting there is still a deep-rooted ‘sign them off’ mentality among family doctors.

Yet the survey of 1,500 GPs for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) also found that nine out of 10 might change the advice they gave to patients on the back of such evidence.

DWP minister Lord McKenzie said: “Doctors’ advice can have a powerful impact – for good or harm. Wrong words can reinforce or even create myths. Challenging patients’ misconceptions and providing evidence-based advice is an effective way of overcoming these barriers.

“But all of us – whether government, employers, the medical profession or even individuals themselves – must consider how we can go further in responding to the evidence of the links between health and work if we are to meet the challenges of tackling ill-health in the working-age population,” he added.

A year ago, the DWP published the findings of an independent review that concluded “good work” was beneficial for physical and mental health, boosting self-esteem and quality of life.

When people returned to work after unemployment, their health often improved by as much as unemployment damaged it, the DWP review argued.

The government has published a leaflet for GPs summarising the key findings to date, and plans to launch an online training tool to assist them in difficult consultations with patients on remaining in or returning to work.

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