The government is hoping that a new pilot scheme, which aims to get people off benefits and back to work much more quickly, will help reduce long-term sickness absence from work. Long-term sickness absence is currently costing Britain an estimated £15bn in lost economic output, with around 300,000 people a year making claims for long-term sickness benefit. Dame Carol Black, adviser on health and work at the Department of Health said “If you have been out of work for 20 weeks then you have a very low chance of returning to your own job – that chance may be only 25%.” She believes that early intervention to help someone back to work is vital and that too many people drop out of work for potentially manageable health reasons, like stress or back pain. Details of the new scheme are still being worked on by the Department for Work and Pensions. Lord Freud said that most people would be expected to go to the service after four weeks of sickness absence unless there is a specified reason not to, such as a serious long-term illness. However, some people are worried that GPs will lose control of their patients’ return to work and that patient’s maybe forced back to work too early. However, Dr John Canning, a GP in Middlesbrough and a committee chairman at the British Medical Association, welcomed the changes as it will relieve doctors of the need to negotiate with employers about their worker’s return to work. He said “I think it will be seen by many as another stick with which to beat people who are not well – but everything that I have read so far suggests that it is a carrot.” The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article. Setfords Solicitors are a national full service law firm, with personal injury solicitors in Dartford and across the country.