Back in the DWP

I am pleased to see that, as of this day in history, the doctor’s “sick note” has been decommissioned by the Department of Work and Pensions (formerly the Department of Social Security). This means that people who can’t work because they are not very well are no longer “sick,” something previously suggested by the “sick note.” In fact, they are “fit”, as the “sick note” has been replaced by the “fit note.” So, if you are not well and can’t go to work, you go to the doctor’s, and the doctor declares you “fit”, which means you can go to work. It’s genius. “Evidence shows that work is generally good for your health,” say the Department of Fitness and Miracles, “and that often going back to work can actually aid a person’s recovery … The new fit note can help. Doctors will be able to advise people who are on sick leave for over 7 days on whether, with extra support from their employer, they could return to work earlier.” Hooray! All diseases cured! Where is George Orwell when you need him?

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17 thoughts on “Back in the DWP

  1. Surely the fault has always been with the GP’s who write sick notes at the drop of a hat? Don’t they charge to write one? £35 or something? HHmmmmmmm.
    Will there still be a charge for a ‘fit note’?

  2. I have to say I kind of agree with the DWP. I work in a local authority, so am VERY familiar with the concept of sick leave! What particularly baffles me is when people are put off with depression – how exactly does sitting around on your own all day at home with nothing to occupy your mind except daytime TV help cure you of depression? What’s more the longer they’re off work, the more the idea of returning becomes a big deal, causing anxiety and fear.

    We all know that the sick note system is abused – GPs, either through overwork or simply trying to cover their own backs, issue these sick notes like smarties without really understanding what the person does for a living or whether being put off work is really the best solution. Not their fault of course – they have about 3 minutes to assess the patient and make a decision – but is that really a sensible approach?

    I know, Andrew, that you work in an industry full of freelancers and highly motivated people – but there are people in the world who are just plain lazy and know how to work the system to get paid for doing nothing.

    Of course I’m not suggesting that genuinely sick people should be forced to work if it would adversely affect their recovery – and I don’t think that’s what the DWP are proposing either. But a more flexible and thoughtful approach than simply putting people “on the sick” is desperately needed.

  3. You make a fair and informed point, Jonny. My interest in this story is more in the creative use of language. Although I’d never really considered the motivation of GPs to hand out sick notes “like smarties,” which is another kind of abuse altogether.

  4. sick notes a lot less palatable than smarties although on the upside my kids wouldn’t run round like lunatics after having one.

    actually if sick notes were coated in e numbers a lot more people might make it into work!

  5. The real problem is after around a month or so, it should not be your own GP signing you off. The reason why most GPs continue to sign off ‘at a drop of a hat’ is when they don’t, the patient never attends again. Nor do they take their family and the therapeutic relationship is destroyed. In terms of longterm sick in te absence of an obvious cause, most GPs hate writing out notes and do so for what they may view as the longterm good. With regards to some of the views of depression written above, as a Psychiatrist myself (brain doctor as Masterchef would have it), may I recommend some opinions more in keeping with the 21st century and I’m glad you have never suffered.

  6. Jonny, you’ve clearly never had depression. I don’t wish it on you, but I’d like it if you look up the symptoms, and the number of lives lost to depression every year, and then say you’d like people to get off their sofa and come in to work.

  7. I’m less well informed than Jonny, but my own experiences in the private sector blind me to any shady Orwellian business involved in this. In fact I kind of admire its sinister cleverness.

    It’ll never work.

  8. I don’t claim to be an expert on depression – but can you honestly tell me that sitting on your own at home all day is the cure?

    And colleagues of mine who have suffered depression have told me that the longe they were off work, the scarier the prospect of going back became…

  9. Jonny, there is now proof the DWP are using the new system to deny sick people benefit.
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/joepublic/2010/mar/23/employment-support-allowance-incapacity-benefit

    I am not an oncologist yet I do not spread stories of cancer patients being lazy and failing to cure themselves with my preferred methods. Maybe when you’ve seen a wound sliced through to the bone that is self inflicted, or got the news the friend who went missing was found hung in their studio you might realise the terminal risks of this illness and treatment that cannot be administered while also holding down a job -where stress from ill-informed and unsympathetic colleagues can often make a decisive difference to the prognosis.

  10. Jonny, you’re making the usual mistake of confusing depression with “feeling a bit low”.
    Treatments such as Seroxat can take some time to kick in and re-align a chemical imbalance. Having to spend the day behind a computor monitor or pulling a lever all day doesn’t really speed that up.

  11. RickB et al – I would ask you to re-read my original post – I did not suggest that people suffering depression were lazy. What you have done is skim-read my original post and picked out certain words: “depression”, “lazy”. Try reading it properly. The depression bit was only an aside – my main point was about lazy people playing the system – not the same as saying depressed people are lazy!

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