GPs face monitoring over sick note levels

GPs could be monitored on the number of sick notes they sign, under plans unveiled by the government as GP went to press.

The proposal is one of a raft of measures outlined in this week's Green Paper on welfare reform, which aims to cut the £12.5 billion incapacity benefits bill.

Work and pensions secretary John Hutton rejected suggestions that he would name and shame GPs who signed huge numbers of people on to incapacity benefits. But he told the BBC that he might monitor their performance.

The GPC said it would not object to sick note monitoring, provided huge variances due to different patient populations were taken into account, a BMA spokeswoman told GP.

Mr Hutton's proposals distinguish between the severely sick or disabled, who would receive more financial help, and less seriously disabled claimants, where the priority is returning them to work.

There will be a more stringent assessment process for incapacity benefit.

Benefits will be cut if claimants refuse to co-operate.

Mr Hutton said he would like to meet GPs to discuss his plans. He wants to encourage GPs to consider alternatives to writing sick notes. This could include collaborating with surgery-based employment advisers.

GPC chairman Dr Hamish Meldrum said that GPs were duty-bound to act on behalf of their patients, not as an arm of the Department for Work and Pensions.

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