GPs could be offered cash incentives for signing fewer people off work, as part of the government’s crack down on the UK’s ‘sicknote culture’.
Employment advisers would work alongside GPs to advise sick-note claimants of job opportunities, said work and pensions secretary John Hutton.
Tougher sanctions were needed against incapacity benefit claimants who refuse to take jobs, according to Hutton.
He said the government wanted to talk to doctors “and some of their patients” so that “people don’t just end up on benefit when there are other options”.
But benefits for those with serious disabilities would increase under the welfare reform.
“If you are seriously disabled then we should be looking to do more for you. We are here to help,” Hutton said.
Councils may also be offered financial rewards for back-to-work schemes for the unemployed and those on incapacity benefit.
Hutton said he hoped to pilot the idea in a number of cities across the country.
But Hamish Meldrum, GP committee member for the British Medical Association, said: “Our first duty is to the patient. Doctors are advocates for the patients, not policeman for the work and pensions department.”
The government is set to disclose plans to cut the 2.7 million people claiming incapacity benefits, costing £12.5bn a year, in a Green Paper tomorrow.