Headlines: September 6th, 2007

A survey has shown that two out of three family doctors did not know about evidence that work is beneficial for physical and mental health but 90 per cent of the GPs said if they had known they would have changed the advice they gave to their patients. The study was carried out by Doctors.Net on behalf of the Department of Work and Pensions.

The results of the survey, which questioned 1500 doctors, were revealed to members of the British Medical Association at a conference to discuss medical evidence that work is good for people’s health. The DWP says evidence published last year found that being in work could help people with health problems to get better and that returning to work improved health.

DWP Minister, Lord McKenzie, told the conference, “Sometimes new findings don’t just change medical practice they challenge the very thinking and assumptions at the heart of our culture and society. They question the behaviour and attitudes of every individual, every organisation and every employer in the country. And they challenge the approach of Government too.” He said obstacles often arose from misunderstandings. Doctors’ advice could have a powerful impact and the wrong words could reinforce or create myths.

Challenging patients’ misconceptions by providing evidence-based advice was a way of overcoming these barriers. Government, employers and the medical profession, as well as people themselves, should consider how to go further in responding to the new evidence.

The Work and Pensions Secretary, Peter Hain, and the Health Secretary, Alan Johnson, have asked Dame Carol Black, the National Director for Health and Work, to review the health of the working age population. She will launch the extensive study with a call for evidence later this month and is due to report early next year.