'Sick-note culture' plans20th February 2008
The Health Secretary has said he wants to see GPs taking a proactive approach in addressing Britain's "sick-note culture."
Alan Johnson has encouraged doctors to write "well notes" to specifically show what work an employee is able to perform, instead of a sick-note which signs them off work.
Family doctors have the responsibility of providing sick-notes to sign people off work for six months. After that time has elapsed an individual is taken care of by the incapacity benefits system.
The UK comes near the top of the league when it comes to the numbers of people on incapacity benefit in Europe, with over 2.7 million claimants.
A change to the current benefits system will go ahead in late 2008. People who claim will need to participate in schemes to aid them in returning to their jobs.
Mr Johnson's speech to the British Heart Foundation said that large companies, including British Gas, have recorded a drop in illness figures following projects which gave advice on managing back problems and mental health issues.
Mr Johnson said that research proved that working actually had a positive impact on health.
He said: "We are not asking GPs to police the benefits system and we are not suggesting that GPs shouldn't sign sick notes."
He added that too high a proportion of people claimed incapacity benefits because of the sick note process.
"If we can stop that and help people back into work that is a good thing. That is what we are trying to do and I don't think the current sick note system helps with that."
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