GPs could lose responsibility for sick notes

Sick people could be signed off long-term work by an independent panel rather than their family doctor, a report is likely to say next week.

Back pain, other muscular problems and stress are the main causes of long-term sickness absence Photo: ALAMY

A new body could decide whether people are fit to work, according to drafts of the Government’s Independent Review into Sickness Absence.

Employers would be able to ask the assessment panel, rather than GPs, to make independent decisions.

It is likely to say that family doctors can be too quick to sign people off on sick leave because there is no incentive for them to help people stay in work.

Other suggestions will look at matching those on long-term sick leave with more appropriate jobs and tax breaks for employers who help lower paid staff get back into work.

The report was commissioned as the Government is aiming to cut the cost of sickness to the state and employers.

The bill is estimated at £60 billion per year for the state in welfare, lost taxes and medical care. The Confederation of British

Industry believes that absent workers cost businesses £17 billion per year.

The review is jointly chaired by David Frost, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce and Dame Carol Black, an NHS director for health and work.

Launching the work earlier this year, Mr Frost said the current situation was “unsustainable” for both private employers and the state.

“Sickness absence undoubtedly has a huge impact on businesses – particularly on smaller firms that struggle with the processes and procedures required, not to mention the direct costs involved,” he said at the time.

“The private sector must focus on growth if we are to sustain the recovery, so it is right that the Government has chosen to look at ways to reduce sickness absence in the workplace and get people back into employment.”

Ed Davey, the employment minister, claimed that “managing sickness absence more effectively will be a win-win situation for all – businesses, individuals, the taxpayer and crucially, the economy.”

A spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions statement declined to comment on the contents of the report.

The Government’s tough reforms of the welfare system are aimed at reducing the number of people claiming benefits for being sick or disabled.

Ministers have pledged changes to the system following a fivefold increase in the number of people claiming to be unfit to work since the 1970s.

The Telegraph

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