One in three sick notes are for mental health problems, ‘alarming’ report shows 

“If anything, this new data may underestimate the scale of the problem,” he added. “Almost half of benefits claimants of Employment and Support Allowance in England are receiving payments as the result of mental and behavioural disorders.”

The new system, introduced in 2010, was supposed to encourage GPs and employers to find ways to get employees back in to work, by finding adjustments to hours or duties, to ease pressures.

But the figures show that in the vast majority of cases employees were simply signed off, with just one in 20 fit notes suggesting accomodations that could be made.

The figures show that that Knowsley, in Merseyside, had the highest number of notes compared to its working age population, while Richmond in south west London had the lowest.

Dr Steve Mowle, spokesperson for the Royal College of GPs, said the figures might reflect changing attitudes, and reduced stigma, with employees feeling more able to speak up about mental health conditions.

“We know that working is beneficial for our patient’s long term physical and mental health and wellbeing, and we need a society-wide approach, including involvement from employers, to put measures in place to get people back into work, where possible, safely and appropriately,” he said.

A spokesman for the Confederation of British Industry said: “The health and well-being of employees is a key priority for employers. Businesses have a duty of care to their employees that considers mental and physical health as well as safety. Most firms will usually have policies in place – especially if they are large businesses – to help support their staff.”

A Government spokesman said: “We’re helping thousands of people to remain in, or get back into work after a period of ill-health.

“We’re determined to go further, and these statistics will provide us with a better understanding of why people take sickness absence in different areas across the country.”

“Supporting people with mental health conditions is a top priority, which is why we’ve commissioned two expert-led reviews and have invested a record £11.6bn into mental health services.”

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