GPs should 'not sign off long-term sick'


Prof Carol Black says an independent assessment service would enable more people on long-term sickness to return to work

Related Stories

People should be signed off for long-term sickness by an independent assessment service and not GPs, a government-backed review says.

The review also suggests tax breaks for firms which employ people who suffer from long-term conditions.

It is estimated the changes would send 20% of those off sick back to work.

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said: "The government is committed to supporting more people with health conditions to work."

Around 300,000 people a year are absent from work due to long-term sickness.

The review also calls for a new government backed job-brokering service, to find work for people cannot stay in their current job because of their condition.

A survey suggested 77% of GPs had signed people off sick for reasons other than their physical health, the report authors told the BBC.


The authors of the independent review believe that one in five of people currently on "the sick" could be back at work if their recommendations are accepted.

That is the kind of change that David Cameron and Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith want to see if they are to deal with a welfare dependency which they believe has spiralled out of control.

There's talk of tax incentives for firms to take on or retain staff with long-term conditions and government-backed help to find a more appropriate job for those who can no longer do what they have been doing could also be on offer.

Both the prime minister and Labour's Ed Miliband have talked recently about a "something for something" society.

The emphasis is on putting in if you want to get something out.

But there will be concern, particularly among the most vulnerable, especially those who suffer fluctuating illnesses, about how stringent and flexible any new assessment could be.

The government asked Professor Carol Black and the former head of the British Chambers of Commerce David Frost to consider radical changes to deal with the human and financial cost of sickness absence in the workplace.

Tax breaks

If the recommendations are accepted people who are signed off sick would also be put on to Job Seekers' Allowance, instead of Employment Support Allowance, for a period of three months.

They would receive less money and have to prove they were looking for work.

Tax breaks for firms which employ people who suffer from long-term conditions are also being suggested.

Prof Black said the current system was not working for anyone.

"What the GPs say is they don't have time to do an in-depth functional assessment and nor have they had any training in occupational health so we think it's providing a new unique service that both employers and GPs need."

Mr Frost said when people were away from work for periods of over four weeks it started to morph into something more.

"You start to lose the will to work and what we've got to do is to find a way of actually working with them, encouraging them and providing real, practical help. And that's what the assessment service would do," he said.

'Punitive process'

And welfare reform minister Lord Freud said: "We just don't get adequate help for people early enough when they need it and what we are creating in there is an incubator for lifelong idleness for far too many people."

BBC political correspondent Robin Brant said the new service was likely to assess people "more quickly and more stringently".

The report authors estimate the changes could save taxpayers at least £350m each year.

The deputy chair of the British Medical Association's GPs committee, Dr Richard Vautrey, said the changes could be a good thing for patients.

He said: "If what is being described is a proper health, occupational health assessment at an earlier stage in the patient's illness then that would be helpful.

"But if it turns out to be a punitive process just to try and save money without the best interests of the patient at the heart of the process then it will fail."

The DWP spokesman said: "The economy loses £15bn in lost economic output each year due to sickness absence and we cannot continue to foot this bill."


More on This Story

Related Stories


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 572.

    Are these panels like the assessments you have to go to by that private American company that probably has a quota, they don't even EXAMINE you, just to get you off the sick and back on the dole (same money for the first year) If my doctor cant tell when I`m sick what hope for these inquisitors? All to save £350m peanuts! Hammer the weak, the vulnerable the sick, Tory policy chapter 1 verse 1

  • rate this

    Comment number 571.

    So, the GPs cannot assess long-term sickness when they are now expected to run the NHS? And surely this is a strange thing for Tories to do as it smacks of the Nanny state? Also, if the overall aim is to reduce costs they have clearly set out their agenda - and outcomes - before conducting any assessments. So now the unemployed are being demonised - God help anyone who now gets sick.

  • rate this

    Comment number 570.

    1) I’ve never known any system to improve by adding another layer of complexity.

    2) Late 90’s, early 2000’s a lot of companies used invalidity / long term sickness as a form of voluntary redundancy to offload cost. I know people who were advised by their employer how much they would get under sickness benefit.

    This is just treating a symptom.
    We have abandoned full employment.

  • rate this

    Comment number 569.

    As a retired psychiatric nurse that had to take ill health retirement, due to my developing and enduring mental health issues, I agree with it, we all need to take more responsibility for our health, it is far too easy just to be given a certificate, instead of spending more time with the individual encouraging them to accept there limitations.

  • rate this

    Comment number 568.

    Another layer of unneccessary red tape. Doctors are trained to treat illness etc. They are kess well trained to adminster huge budgets. But what does this government plan?
    I agree that there are too many scivers and malingerers but surely a scheme can be devised were more than one doctor at any surgery has to approve any lengthy sickness period.

  • rate this

    Comment number 567.

    With the privatisation of the NHS it will be necessary to complete all the savings before it is sold off.
    Anyhow this scheme will produce more bureaucrats, more backroom committees

  • rate this

    Comment number 566.

    " CHANGE YOUR VOTE , IT'S EASY , X marks the spot !! GET A GRIP ! GOODNIGHT !"

    Are you seriously trying to suggest that voting changes a blind thing?
    How long do you think that would stay legal? Goodnight!

  • rate this

    Comment number 565.


    There are huge differences between cancer and depression and minior illnesses! I know a good handful of cancer people who have survived have recovered and gone back to work! how many people do you who signed off with depression or stress that have gone back to work....

  • rate this

    Comment number 564.

    @553 Steve
    " if you are genuinely sick there is nothing to be concerned about "

    WOW how gullible are you? They've got you hook, line and sinker.

    You've obviously never had a condition that doesn't quite fit their check-list. In these situations the tend to squeeze you into the "perfectly healthy" category, even though the exact opposite can be the reality.

  • rate this

    Comment number 563.

    If I were sick I would like to be assessed by people who were medically trained and understand my illness. My GP understands the fluctuating nature of my illness and the different symptoms it can present with. Also I can see my GP within 24 hours, how long will it be to be seen by this 'panel'? And would I be expected to work while my illness is at it's worst?

  • rate this

    Comment number 562.

    So the elderly who may be past their best physically and psychologically have to work longer but there are no jobs for the young. Now the sick are also to go back to work! Why don't we concentrate on getting the young and fit into to work so they can have a future. Yes sort out the malingerers but don't victimise the genuinely sick.

  • rate this

    Comment number 561.


    I'm more concerned about the 77% of GP's who are not only being paid the full rate NHS salary but who also has it specifically written into their contract that they only work two days a week for the NHS because they want to spend the rest of their time running their private clinics


  • rate this

    Comment number 560.

    Stop workplace bullying and absence will improve instantly.

  • rate this

    Comment number 559.

    Krokidildo? is that really you Mrs.T?
    She really would love all this I'm sure.

  • rate this

    Comment number 558.

    Yet another brick in the wall to the Executive building the "Orwellian" State, see the Thought Police if you are "sick". Drip, drip, drip slowly, certainly turning the UK back to a Victorian Society run on "Orwellian" lines with children and laws of child protection in the realms of fantasy the focus, after all they are the new "soldiers" ripe for brainwashing to the ethos of the new Order.

  • rate this

    Comment number 557.

    It is to get people off sickness benefits. There are too many lazy private sector employees skiving work and milking the system for my liking unlike us hard working and poorly paid public sector workers. Politicians should not be allowed to make political decision either.

  • rate this

    Comment number 556.

    I have just visited a page on the BBC on population, it states that per hour in the UK there are 85 births, 66 deaths, and 23 immigrants. If this government wants to save money I don't think they have to look further than these statistics. Leave the disabled alone and put this right first.

  • rate this

    Comment number 555.

    I am totally opposed to this idea.

    My father is long-term sick and any GP would say so, but bring around an agent expected to reduce the numbers of long-term sick and they'll be kicking unable individuals onto Jobseekers to save the Government some money. Awful idea, from people who do not know how stressful this will be for these people and their families. I should know.

  • rate this

    Comment number 554.

    Hello everyone and I agree with CC comment 59
    I'm only going to say a few words,because we 've heard it all before
    Where are all the the jobs coming from ?
    Oh sorry I forgot about the 1million plus young people looking to make a life aswell. Wish I had a 'Westminster crystal ball'

  • rate this

    Comment number 553.

    A great many on here are running scared, if you are genuinely sick there is nothing to be concerned about, as the new assessors will confirm that you are sick, but if you are just workshy it will become more difficult and so it should. Society is getting sick and tired of paying for the scroungers and benefit cheats.


Page 46 of 74


More UK stories



Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.