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Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Overhaul of the sick note system is long overdue in Wales

The package of measures announced today to get people in England back to work and to help them stay in work, looks like being a step in the right direction. Perhaps it's something Wales should consider adopting.

The BMA has been calling for the sick note system to be reviewed for many years and we believe a Fit for Work service to help people back into employment may be the right way forward. The new ‘fit note’ has potential, particularly were it to be introduced to Wales, where we have some have the highest rates of incapacity benefit in the UK.

Whatever the change to the system though, it's crucial GPs are able to continue to act as the patient’s advocate and don’t end up policing the system for the Department for Work and Pensions. GPs are required to provide facts (not opinions) and do not take decisions on who gets benefits. That is the way is should stay.

It would also have been good to have seen a commitment to making sure every worker has access to basic occupational health services. Employers do need to take more responsibility, particularly in difficult economic times like now, as work-related ill health problems may well become more common.

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