Patients, doctors, and sickness benefit

BMJ 2003; 327 doi: (Published 30 October 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;327:1057
  1. Björn Nilsson, family doctor,
  2. Iona Heath, general practitioner (
  1. Kolbäck, Sweden
  2. London

    In the United Kingdom more than 2.7 million people of working age—about 7.5% of the working age population—are now claiming incapacity benefits. The number has more than trebled since the 1970s. Similar disturbing trends have been reported across Europe, at a time when all the other indicators are that general health is improving. Each person now claiming incapacity benefit began by asking their doctor for a sickness certificate.

    As businesses increasingly prioritise corporate profit above any other considerations, the population becomes polarised between those who have no work and those who have too much. The growing number of people who are either unemployed ever increasing demands and expectation. “Leaner and fitter” organisations have cut staff to the minimum, increasing the stress on those who remain. The resulting feeling of loss of control has a negative effect on health. As soon as one person feels no longer able to cope and takes sick leave, the pressure on the remaining staff is ratcheted …

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