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Work and Health Update

Volume 748: debated on Friday 19 April 2024

Together with the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, my right hon. Friend the Member for Louth and Horncastle (Victoria Atkins), later today we will publish a Command Paper launching the fit note reform call for evidence.

Good work is good for health. We know that work positively impacts people’s physical and mental health and wellbeing, and through our ambitious employment package, announced at the spring Budget in 2023, and our back to work plan, we are supporting people in their journey back to work by addressing their needs and empowering them to fulfil their potential.

However, there are currently 2.8 million people of working age who are economically inactive due to long-term sickness. We know that 10 million “not fit for work” fit notes are issued every year. This represents a missed opportunity to help people get the appropriate support they may need to remain in work. We should reform the fit note process so that it starts with an objective assessment of what someone can do with the right support, rather than what they cannot. A new fit note process will ensure people get the right help for their needs, reducing pressure on GPs and helping to free up thousands of GP appointments.

At autumn statement 2023, the Chancellor announced £24 million to begin designing and implementing fit note trailblazers in a number of integrated care systems in England. These trailblazers will test how to give people receiving a fit note for a prolonged period of time the support they need to stay in or get back to work. These trailblazers will build on the WorkWell service pilots providing integrated health and work support locally.

The call for evidence published today will gather evidence to assess the impact of the current fit note process in supporting work and health conversations. It asks stakeholders how they would like to see the fit note process change to better support people to start, stay and succeed in work.

While fit note policy and regulations apply to Great Britain, fit notes are delivered within health systems, which are devolved. Collaboration is key to achieving our ambitions, and we are committed to working with stakeholders across the United Kingdom as we progress fit note reform ahead of a formal consultation later this year. The call for evidence therefore seeks a broad range of views and ideas from those with lived experiences, healthcare professionals and employers.

This is an important part of our next generation of welfare reforms and the Government’s ambition to improve health outcomes, and help people get access to the support they need to return to, remain and thrive in work.