The government must not let medical assessors be incentivised to push people back into work if they are sick, a leading expert has warned.

Work and pensions expert Baroness Altmann last night welcomed plans by Rishi Sunak to shift the responsibility of issuing sick notes from GPs to “specialist work and health professionals” in a crackdown on Britain’s growing ‘sick note culture.’

However she said the new assessors should not be given inducements to force people back into work even if they are unwell.

She said: “Anything that relieves pressure on overstretched GP’s is a good thing. Having an independent assessor make this decision may be a good thing as long as they are independent and not incentivised to get people into work.”

However Professor Carl Heneghan, an urgent care GP and director of the Centre for Evidence Based Medicine at Oxford University said the scheme had not been properly tested and it was important to work out why people are off sick as well as trying to solve the growing problem of long term sickness in the UK.

He said: “We have a huge hospital waiting list and increasing mental ill health without NHS capacity to cope with people’s needs. It’s no good trying to get people back into work if this may even make them more ill. This scheme is another simple solution for what is likely to be a very complex problem. We need to carry out proper trials to try and understand what works and why it works instead of attempting to do a quick fix like this.”

Dr Sarah Hughes, chief executive of the mental health charity Mind, said: “We are deeply disappointed that the prime minister’s speech continues a trend in recent rhetoric which conjures up the image of a ‘mental health culture’ that has ‘gone too far’.

In a major speech last week the PM warned that a surge in people signing off sick with mental health conditions was placing ‘unsustainable’ pressure on the welfare budget.

The PM said he is concerned about the increase in long-term sickness since the pandemic, largely driven by mental health conditions with 2.8 million people now “economically inactive”.

In relation to mental health, he said he would “never dismiss or downplay the illnesses people have”, but argued that there is a need to be “more honest about the risk of over-medicalising the everyday challenges and worries of life”.

As part of an effort to tackle the problem plans to shift responsibility of issuing sick notes from GPs to “specialist work and health assessors.”

Data recently published by the NHS shows almost 11 million fit notes were issued last year, with an overwhelming 94 percent of those signed “not fit for work”. A large proportion of these are repeat fit notes which are issued without any advice.

You May Also Like

'I was so bloated, I looked five months pregnant': 29-year-old claims medics 'gaslit' her into believing she had IBS for two years when the real culprit was agonising hormone condition endometriosis

A woman who looked ‘five months pregnant’ has claimed she was ‘gaslit’…

Are parents who think they 'know better' to blame for the whooping cough surge? asks Dr MAX PEMBERTON

Six lives every minute. That’s the number saved by vaccines, according to…

Almost one in three dementia patients forced to wait more than six months to learn if they have disease after first seeing a doctor, report reveals

Almost one in three dementia patients have to wait more than six…

The new NHS diet which will help lose '22 pounds a year' and reverse diabetes

Around 10,000 people every year are set to benefit from a groundbreaking…