‘Everyone is capable of some kind of work’ – Sunderland GP blasts sick note culture

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A WEARSIDE doctor says some patients are ‘hell bent’ on trying to prove they are really ill.

Dr Phil Peverley, who works at The Old Forge Surgery, Pallion Park, said he has even considered putting up a poster of Professor Stephen Hawking with the caption: ‘This bloke is not on the sick’ in the surgery.

Writing a column in the medical magazine, Pulse, Dr Peverley, said: “Entire surgeries could be filled with the disgruntled unworking well, full of indignation at being considered reasonably healthy.

“We are, as a profession, dedicated to making our patients as healthy as possible, and yet a proportion of punters are hell bent on trying to prove they’re really ill, and need us to confirm it.

“The fact is, nearly everyone is capable of some kind of work. I had considered, at one point, putting up a portrait of Professor Stephen Hawking in my consulting room with a caption that said ‘This bloke is not on the sick’.”

The renowned physicist has motor neurone disease, which has left him almost totally paralysed and he communicates using a speech-generating machine.

An award-winning columnist, Dr Peverley went on to say: “Being found fit for some kind of employment by Atos (the organisation which quizzes unemployed people about their suitability to work), does not mean you’re necessarily capable of being an FBI agent or a lumberjack. However, you might be able to work at a desk on a telephone, or hold a lollipop on a zebra crossing.”

He said the benefits of employment are not just financial, but include less depression, greater social contact, increased wellbeing and a decreasing tendency to addiction and social deprivation.

Earlier this year, a poll of 4,000 family doctors by the Department for Work and Pensions showed three quarters feel obliged to issue sick notes to patients even when there is no medical need.

Since being hired by the Government in 2008, Atos has carried out more than 1.5million assessments on people to see if they are fit for work, but it has led to more than 600,000 appeals at a cost of £60million.

Richard Hawkes, CEO of disability charity, Scope, said: “Dr Peverley’s attempt at ‘telling it like it is’ misses the point entirely. Disabled people do want to work, but they need support to overcome huge barriers, such as a lack of skills and experience, confidence and even negative attitudes from some employers.”