Driving the sick back to work! – private company to displace GP practices

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DOCTORS have slammed a new scheme to drive workers who are sick back to work.

The extremely controversial proposal will see workers who are off sick for four weeks in a year face a private company’s ‘fit-for-work’ test. The private company, Health Management Limited (HML), will then draw up a ‘back-to-work’ plan.

Rather then being issued a ‘sick note’ from your local GP, GPs will be expected to refer patients to HML who will ‘assess’ the patient’s health over the phone.

This scheme is projected to cost the taxpayer in excess of £134 million over four years. It is claimed that the cost of sick leave to the economy is £9bn per year.

The British Medical Association (BMA) said that they would boycott the scheme if they felt that it was forcing sick workers back to work.

British Medical Association (BMA) member Anna Athow told News Line: ‘This is a prescription for disaster. A patient’s own GP, who knows the patient from a medical and social point of view, is the only professional in a position to decide when they are better.

‘It can take months to recover from many serious illnesses and operations, depending on age and fitness. Going back to work before being rehabilitated just makes the patient worse.

‘This plan must be totally opposed by the BMA and all the health unions. The pilot should be terminated immediately.

‘We have already seen the suicides caused by private company Atos assessing those with disability with no medical knowledge in order to remove their disability benefits.

‘The aim of this plan is to cut the sick benefits of those with physical and mental illnesses in the same way, as happened to the disabled.’

Similar schemes that have used private companies to assess whether disabled people are ‘fit-for-work’ have ended in disaster.

Private company Atos had its government contract terminated early after Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) identified ‘significant quality failures’.

In one case, Atos, who were running ‘Work Capability Assessments’, assessed a 39-year-old mum of three and concluded that she was ‘fit-for-work’; she died weeks later of a brain tumour.

Meanwhile, a study by the University of York is arguing that the amount the NHS spends on medicines is too high and that only medicines under £13,000 should be considered as available for patients.

However, National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), the drugs advice body, says that if the threshold is reduced, more expensive drugs that prolong patients lives will not be available to them.

Currently, NICE recommends a limit of £20,000 to £30,000. It would not generally recommend a drug over that price as ‘cost-effective’.

Anna Athow commented: ‘The only solution is for the entire pharmaceutical industry to be nationalised and put under the control of the NHS so that all drugs can be produced cheaply.

‘Then patients will have access to all of the latest life-saving and life-prolonging drugs and treatments.’