Ministers set to 'unveil major overhaul of sick note system' in bid to get more people back to work

9 October 2023, 11:58 | Updated: 9 October 2023, 11:59

Ministers are expected to unveil a radical overhaul of the sick note system
Ministers are expected to unveil a radical overhaul of the sick note system. Picture: Alamy

By Emma Soteriou

Ministers are said to be planning a major overhaul of the sick note system in a bid to help get more people to work.

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Patients could be "triaged" by a local medic - such as a mental-health practitioner - in a "treat-them-first" approach instead of just declaring them unfit to work.

They would undergo a process to identify the most appropriate clinician or official for them to see.

The proposals, which are being drawn up by Work and Pensions Secretary Mel Stride and Health Secretary Steve Barclay, come in a bid to reduce the number of people routinely signed off for months at a time.

A source involved in discussions told the Telegraph: "GPs will absolutely still have a role, but exactly how that functions is something that is being discussed."

It comes after Mr Stride revealed at the Conservative Party conference that GPs were signing people off "as being unfit for any work whatsoever" in the majority of cases due to time pressures.

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GPs are asked to classify people as either unfit for work or possibly fit for work with changes to hours or duties.

Mr Stride suggested that signing people off instead had become a default answer.

"You start by going to your GP, they give you on average seven minutes, they have a fit note where 93 per cent of the time they will sign you off as being unfit for any work whatsoever," he told a Centre for Social Justice event.

"A medical practitioner has therefore said you cannot work.

"The other box, which is that under certain circumstances with adjustments you might be able to do something, only gets ticked six per cent of the time.

"I want to change that. I want to change it such that the person that goes in who can be helped there and then goes into an arrangement where health support, plus work coach support, is brought together at that moment in time to make sure that they don't proceed along that path."

The changes would form part of Chancellor Jeremy Hunt's upcoming autumn statement, intended to drive down public spending.

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