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‘Weasel words from department’

GPs should be freed from ‘policing' the benefits system, according to a report by the NHS Confederation.

It says their role in deciding whether patients are fit to work needs to change so GPs can avoid having to strike a difficult balance between being an agent of the state, role model and health professional.

Report author Joanna Clason, NHS Confederation stakeholder relations manager, suggested removing the task of signing people onto incapacity benefit from individual GPs and instead forming an independent panel of health professionals to take over the job.

This would free up GPs to focus on delivering healthcare and ‘enable GPs to prevent people upstream from coming onto incapacity benefit in the first place', she said.

It also calls for an incentive scheme to reward the NHS for getting people back to work.

‘We propose that a percentage of the savings made from getting people off incapacity benefit should be placed in an invest-to-save fund and the NHS, social services, Jobcentre plus and others could bid for funding,' Ms Clason said.

Dr Laurence Buckman, GPC deputy chair, welcomed the idea, adding that unfunded benefit work was the bane of every GP's existence.

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