Return to work: GMC drops GP's obligation

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The General Medical Council has eased requirements for doctors to encourage long-term patients to go back to work.

The measure ‘to encourage patients with long-term conditions to stay in, or return to, employment' had reportedly been introduced at the behest of the Department for Work and Pensions as part of its crackdown on benefits and the welfare reform programme.

However, it was heavily criticised by the British Medical Association and GPs as political interference in the doctor-patient relationship and it appears that pressure has been successful.

Instead, according to a report on GP news service Pulse, doctors will have a duty to encourage ‘fulfilling activity' including voluntary or paid work to their patients.

It said the GMC Council had rewritten the final draft to say: "You must support patients in caring for themselves to empower them to improve and maintain their health.

"This may, for example, include... supporting patients to make lifestyle changes where appropriate, including changes to diet, exercise, smoking and alcohol consumption, doing voluntary or paid work or other fulfilling activities."

Dr Kambiz Boomla told Pulse that government had failed to put support in place for patients to return to work and as a result the guidance was not likely to have a great effect.

With limited support available from the State, the burden is increasingly falling on employers to help support their employees back into work after a prolonged absence period.

The final guidance is expected to be published in November and be enforced next year.

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