PM should focus on helping patients get care rather than hostile rhetoric on 'sicknote culture', says BMA

by BMA media team

BMA press release.

Location: England
Published: Friday 19 April 2024
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Responding to the Prime Minister's plans to overhaul Britain's 'sicknote culture', Dr Katie Bramall-Stainer, chair of GPC England, said: 

"Fit notes are carefully considered before they are written, and a GP will sign their patient off work only if they are not well enough to undertake their duties. We do recognise the health benefits of good work, and that most people do want to work. But when they are unwell, people need access to prompt care.

“Further review of how fit notes are issued may relieve the administrative burden upon GPs to free up time to see more patients. Recent progress means issuing these notes can now be undertaken by other doctors as well as nurses, occupational therapists and physiotherapists.

“With a waiting list of 7.5 million – not including for mental health problems – delays to diagnostics, and resulting pressures on GP practices, patients cannot get the treatment they need to be able to return to work.

"So rather than pushing a hostile rhetoric on ‘sicknote culture’, perhaps the Prime Minister should focus on removing what is stopping patients from receiving the physical and mental healthcare they need, which in turn prevents them from going back to work.”

Dr Kathryn McKinnon, chair of the occupational medicine committee, said: 

"The announcement today as a whole, mainly the support provisions for Work Well and as Mel Stride puts it ‘a move towards a national occupational health service’ has the potential to be a positive step for the UK workforce and economy but we have concerns with the level of detail provided. Specifically the way that this will be delivered with regard to the level of staffing, training and supervision as the existing OH workforce is already under pressure.

"We need to see the details on how it will be implemented, this seems like an announcement made out of nowhere with no thought or reasoning into how huge this could be to occupational health which is currently a commercial enterprise in the UK.

"We believe that every worker in the UK deserves to have access to occupational health (OH) and medicine, as it currently stands OH is often a type of benefit given by certain employers – today’s announcement has put more emphasis on occupational medicine through the Work Well program which was announced in budget 2023 and then went silent, but we hope this leads to a universal occupational health services for all workers in the UK and would like further details on today’s announcement." 


Notes to editors

The BMA is a professional association and trade union representing and negotiating on behalf of all doctors in the UK. A leading voice advocating for outstanding health care and a healthy population. An association providing members with excellent individual services and support throughout their lives.

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