GPs to train in getting patients back into work

Public Health - RCGP works with government on plan to offer training to one in 10 GPs, following pilot schemes.

One GP in 10 is expected to receive training in getting patients back to work under a scheme developed by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and the RCGP.

GPs will then spread the return-to-work message to their practices.

Under a £1 million programme masterminded by the RCGP and funded by the DWP, 3,000 to 4,000 GPs are to learn strategies for handling difficult consultations and receive recent evidence about work and health.

After attending pilot workshops nearly 80 per cent of GPs told the DWP that they felt confident about advising on fitness for work, compared with 33 per cent beforehand.

'As (the programme) has been developed by GPs for GPs, those attending the workshops can be confident that it will be time well spent,' said RCGP chairman Professor Steve Field.

But return-to-work rates in their practices will not be monitored. A DWP spokesman said: 'This is a learning and development opportunity.'

RCGP lead on the project Professor Nigel Sparrow said: 'This work is about improving GPs' consultation skills to help their patients understand the health benefits of returning to work.'

But the college will evaluate the quality of education at the workshops and visit practices afterwards, he added.

The college has signed a contract with the DWP to run up to 150 training workshops from next month across England, Wales and Scotland. Areas of high unemployment have not been targeted, the DWP said.

'By supporting GPs to provide appropriate fitness-for-work advice we hope to prevent people needlessly losing their jobs in a recession and support more people to stay in work,' a DWP spokesman said.

The government is aiming to reduce the costs of sickness absence and health-related inactivity, estimated to be around £100 billion.

Each workshop will be delivered by an RCGP-trained GP and an occupational health doctor.

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