The Health Secretary, Alan Johnson, is right to recognise that employers should do more to promote the health and well-being of their staff, but is misguided if he believes GPs alone can reduce employee absence due to ill-health.
Dr Peter Holden, a lead negotiator for the BMA's General Practitioners Committee says:
"GPs are often placed in a difficult position between their patients and the system when issuing sick notes in the early stages of illness. Confirming that a patient is unwell is very different from making a judgement on whether someone is well enough to do their job. This may be determined by a host of other non-medical factors concerning the equipment they are using or the physical environment in which they work. GPs should not be there to police the system.
"For over ten years the BMA has called for the incapacity benefit process to be reviewed and reformed. There is often too much focus placed on the doctors' role in giving a medical assessment. This is only part of the process in deciding when benefits should be given. Employers should be encouraged to provide staff with access to proper occupational health services that will help them get back to work.
"GPs are only involved in certification for sick pay for the first six months, after that the medical adjudication role is the responsibility of the Department of Work and Pensions1. The decision to award incapacity benefit is made by a lay adjudication officer."