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GPs have attacked a new Government call for them to help end the 'sicknote culture'.

Work and pensions secretary Alan Johnson said last week that GPs should help stem the flow of patients claiming long-term incapacity benefit.

He added that their responsibilities were 'much wider' than just acting as gatekeepers to a benefit.

Speaking at a Royal Society of Medicine conference, Mr Johnson said: 'We need to work with you so that we move towards a situation where we have better records of what sicknotes have been given and why.'

Dr Terry John, spokesman for the charity Developing Patient Partnerships and a GP in east London, said GPs should not be given the job of 'drumming patients back to work'.

He added that GPs already encouraged patients to return if they were able because of

the physical and psychological benefits.

The Government should set up an occupational health structure to get patients

back to work if it wanted

to rehabilitate people, Dr John said.

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