National charity calls on GPs to play bigger role in getting people with depression back into the workplace

A national charity has urged GPs to play a bigger role in getting people with depression back into the workplace.

Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health said family doctors should avoid keeping people off sick for too long, to prevent potential exclusion from their workplace and colleagues. “Before long, they are unemployed and living on benefits,” the charity said in a report.

The organisation called for GPs to provide work-focused help for people signed off sick with depression, including referral to employment advisers where necessary.

It argues that practices should be able to make local agreements with other services to support patients back to work, including the involvement of local authorities and voluntary organisations to have a say in the commissioning process at practice level.

Dr Bob Grove, director of employment at Sainsbury Centre, said that unemployment was a bigger health hazard than either smoking or obesity.

“People with mental health problems can face a lifetime of exclusion if they are not helped to get back to work when they become ill. GPs have a pivotal role in helping people to get their lives back rather than leaving them facing years of poverty, isolation and ill health,” he said.

Dr Alan Cohen, Sainsbury Centre primary care adviser and a practising GP, said family doctors need to keep in touch with patients signed off with sicknotes and to support them back to work.

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