The government could end up telling doctors and GPs to sign fewer sick notes in a bid to boost the UK economy. In plans reported by The Telegraph and under consideration at Whitehall, ill people would instead remain at work “with the relevant support”.
Several ministers, including Chancellor Jeremy Hunt, have expressed concern over Britain’s increased economic inactivity and the increase in long term sick leave since the pandemic. These concerns could lead to GPs being asked to encourage ill people to stay at work, while stressing the “benefits of work”.
A government source told the newspaper: “The mental health benefits of work are well established. We want to do all we can to encourage as many people as possible to stay in work with the relevant support in place to help them do so, including signposting them to that support at the earliest possible opportunity.”
According to figures by the Labour Force Survey, 2.32 million people in the UK were signed off with long term health conditions in the summer of 2022. This is an increase from 1.95 in 2019, before the pandemic.
The news comes after changes to the rules of Universal Credit, which increased the amount of hours people on benefits had to work to not have to see a work coach. The new measures are due to weak economic performance compared to neighbouring countries.
The weak performance is partly driven by the shortage of workers, which is believed to be partially due to Brexit hindering the free movement of people and workforce. The government is now looking for new ways to increase labour supply.