Health secretary Alan Johnson has said today that he wants to 'explore what else GPs can do to change our sick note culture into a well note culture'. Once again it's the public servant who is held responsible.
The GP's relationship with his patient is nothing to do with the state or the employer. Already GPs are placed in a difficult position with regard to incapacity benefit assessment and the BMA have rightly called for called for this process to be reformed. The hope has long been that the new incapacity benefit system would place less focus on the GP. But this latest idea appears to go in the opposite direction - extending the GP's policing role to pretty much anyone who is ill.
The BMA's Peter Holden rightly points out that 'confirming that a patient is unwell is very different from making a judgement on whether someone is well enough to do their job.' How is the GP supposed to know what equipment they use, how their office is arranged and about the numerous other factors concerning the job?
It is down to the employer to ensure that workers don't get ill by providing decent, civilised working conditions. Nothing more, nothing less.
This is the way to reduce the 30 million working days lost to work-related ill health and the 6 million lost to workplace injury. Smart employers are already doing that. British Gas and Parcelforce have reduced sickness rates by running advice sessions on back pain and mental health problems. Men are already reluctant to see their doctors. Turning GPs into unpaid sick note monitors for every employer in the country will only make them more reluctant.