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GPs should be given training by employment and occupational health advisers in how to deal with sicknote requests, Work and Pensions Secretary David Blunkett has said.

Mr Blunkett said there was a 'big problem with the way doctors grant sicknotes'.

He told The Guardian: 'Once people are put on the sick, they tend to stay sick. We have got to persuade GPs it is in the interest of the patient, and not just the state or its agencies, to help them.'

A spokeswoman for the Department for Work and Pensions said it was planning a pilot scheme in which employment advisers, job centre staff or occupational health therapists will train GPs on handling sicknote requests.

She said evidence showed GPs were not comfortable dealing with such requests from patients and needed more support and training.

GPC negotiators wrote to the Government to demand an end to GPs' role in sickness certification and incapacity benefit in May.

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