Sunak Proposes Stripping GPs Authority  To Sign Sick Notes

Sunak Proposes Stripping GPs Authority To Sign Sick Notes

By Ben Kerrigan- 

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has proposed stripping General Practitioners (GPs) of their authority to sign people off work due to illness, in a bold move aimed at reshaping what he terms the UK’s “sick note culture.

The plan, which forms part of the Conservative Party’s platform ahead of the general election, has ignited a fierce debate over the government’s approach to welfare and disability support.

Sunak’s proposal, if implemented, would see the responsibility of issuing sick notes transferred to “specialist work and health professionals” in England, a departure from the longstanding practice of GPs providing such documentation.

The rationale behind this shift, as articulated by Sunak, is to combat what he perceives as a growing trend of benefits becoming a “lifestyle choice” for some individuals, contributing to what he describes as a “spiralling” welfare bill.

The prime minister’s announcement has drawn sharp criticism from opposition parties, disability charities, and healthcare professionals alike.

Labour has lambasted the government, accusing them of running out of ideas and failing to address the underlying issues driving unemployment and sickness absence.

Disability charities, including Scope, have condemned the plans as an “assault on disabled people,” expressing concerns that the proposed changes are driven more by cost-cutting measures than genuine efforts to support those in need.

Central to Sunak’s proposal is the assertion that a significant portion of younger potential workers are among the record-high 2.8 million people out of work as of February 2024.

He argues that leaving a generation of young people unemployed is both unsustainable and morally unacceptable, framing the proposed reforms as a necessary step towards encouraging individuals to re-enter the workforce.

However, critics have raised doubts about the feasibility and fairness of Sunak’s plan.

Labour leader Keir Starmer dismissed the announcement as a rehashed version of previous government policies, emphasizing the need for concrete action to address systemic issues within the healthcare and welfare systems.

Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey echoed these sentiments, branding Sunak’s speech as “desperate” and accusing the government of deflecting blame for its own failures.

Amidst the controversy, questions linger about the practical implications of Sunak’s proposal and its potential impact on vulnerable individuals.

NHS data reveals that almost 11 million fit notes were issued in England last year, with the vast majority indicating individuals as “not fit for work.”

Critics fear that transferring the responsibility of issuing sick notes to “specialist professionals” could exacerbate existing barriers to accessing healthcare and support services.

With the general election looming, the outcome of this contentious issue is likely to shape the political landscape for years to come, with far-reaching implications for those most in need of support and assistance.


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